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"Swimming Pool"

Directed by François Ozon.
Written by François Ozon. 
Starring Charlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  7/22/03 


After the first half-hour of “Swimming Pool”, a French drama by Francois Ozon, I was thinking that the MPAA should create a new rating classification when describing what to watch out for when deciding on a film.

Right now, we’ve got things like “Pervasive Action”, “Cruelty”, “Drug Use”, and “Sensuality.”  On TV, we get the one-, two- or three-letter codes for cable movies…so, we have “AT” (adult themes), “V” (violence), and the teenager money shot “SSC” (strong sexual content).  I won’t even get into how many SSC jokes guys made back at good ol’ Wootton High School in Rockville, Maryland; man, if a film was SSC, V, and AL (adult language), guys were all over that!

It occurred to me, though, that we have “N” and “BN” for nudity and brief nudity…but, what about those times where we get nearly OD’d on nudity?  I propose a “SN”--strong nudity--rating, because in “Swimming Pool”, there is a bunch of nudity that helps illustrate the story…and then, some nudity that just felt even more over the top because those Frenchies like breast shots.  So, there we have co-star Ludivine Sagnier (from “8 Women” and “My Wife is an Actress”) making coffee with her shirt off…and, since the scene lasts a solid 30 seconds, her nudity produced audible giggles from other “mature” San Francisco audience members.  In fact, I think the first time we see Sagnier naked, there were audible gasps all over the theater; I am still unsure if this was because she was hangin’ out in the tub naked smokin’ a cig, or if it was because she has what can only be described as a nearly-perfect body.  Either way, Sagnier’s nakedness was the film’s driving force for the first hour, when it seemed like she was naked on the pool deck, having sex or making coffee in every other scene.

Sagnier is playing Julie, the daughter of London book publisher John Bosload (Charles Dance), and she lives in the French countryside at the house that Bosload owns as his summer home.  Bosload’s star author Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling), needing a respite from her current detective book series to write a new novel, takes Bosload up on an offer to get away from it all and crash the summer home…only to find that she has an unexpected roommate in Julie.

I enjoyed Rampling’s performance a lot, especially as she starts off playing a complete English bitch and softens ever so much over the course of the film.  She does a lot of the little things well; the looks, the feeling that she really is thinking about how to best pursue her writing, and her incredibly-funny scene with Sagnier and another male character as they dance the night away at the summer home.  As one should expect with a film set in the French countryside, the visuals are beautiful and Ozon throws some interesting shots into the mix, especially two shots with Julie and Sarah lounging alongside the pool with varying onlookers observing the goods.

The film takes a while to get going, and I was a little frustrated with how things go after that dance sequence late in the film; I felt that there was more to talk about there, but Ozon and his writers took another angle and left the point behind.  Otherwise, another strong entry for the summer; I may just have to bite it and see some really bad-looking films this week to help even out my scales, because this has just been a banner movie year for me and I need to string some profanity together soon.  I can’t take this any more; need a Hard Vice soon!!

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09