Friday, 2 July 2010

It's Tiring Killing A Man

I remember, back in the day, thinking that Ludivine Sagnier would go on to be a big star, with great cross-over appeal in the English language world. For some reason, however, it doesn't seem to have happened, at least not to the level that I anticipated. I can't even remember what movie made me think it - I'm sure it was before her turn in 8 Femmes. Maybe it wasn't, though I don't think that film made a big enough impression on me to have made me think it on my own.

I thought it again watching Fran├žois Ozon's Swimming Pool alongside Charlotte Rampling (who was in Ozon's previous film on here, Under The Sand.) She is beautiful, she is talented, and she has that gorgeous voice, whether speaking in French or in English.

Sarah (Rampling) is a successful writer of crime fiction, somewhat uptight, who is offered by her publisher (who it is implied she may be having, have had, or want to have a fling with) the use of his house in France to work on her next novel, away from the distractions and complications of her London life. She takes him up on it, and begins to enjoy her time there, relaxing, doing as she will. Her solitude is interrupted, however, by the arrival of Julie (Sagnier), apparently the publisher's daughter from an old relationship. She says that she is allowed to use the house whenever she wants, and Sarah obviously cannot say no. Julie, however, is intent on partying like the young, free girl that she has, which seems to include bringing home a different man every night. Sarah is initially somewhat angry and hostile about this, but shortly starts to take an interest, somewhat voyeuristic, in Julie's exploits, showing jealousy at her lifestyle. 

Julie brings home a waiter, Franck (Jean-Marie Lamour) who Sarah has also been flirting with, and it soon seems that Franck is more interested in Sarah than Julie, though Sarah's prudish ways do little to entice him. The next morning, however, Franck has disappeared, after he stopped Julie from fellating him on the edge of the swimming pool due to his shock at Sarah throwing a rock in the pool from her vantage point on a balcony off her bedroom.

I shan't go further for fear of giving too much away, but let it be said that I'm sure the plot would go down very well in one of Sarah's murder mysteries (and I'm sure that was the point - I'm not dense.)

Coming out of the viewing of the film I thought to myself that I think Ozon is a director whom I always want to like more than I do. Looking back on it now, however, I think the film has worked its way into me much more than I gave it credit for. The pacing of the film works perfectly, giving ample time to truly understand each of the primary female characters and allowing for their motivations to become entirely understandable. Rampling does well (though her English does sound like a Frenchwoman speaking English, which is strange considering she is, actually, English. Maybe it was just me, but speaking her native tongue never struck me as particularly natural for her character. Sagnier was beautiful and youthfully tortured, turning in her character with all of her vulnerabilities with style and finesse. Maybe her stardom will come with age - so often the pretty are ignored until a wrinkle or two appears.

I prefer this film to Under The Sand (possibly because of my age - Under The Sand was, I think, dealing with themes and issues more geared to an older audience), but I still would heistate to call it a great film. I will keep plugging along with Ozon's filmography, and wait for that one that grabs me and says 'yes! You're right! He's genius!', because I'm sure it is there. I can feel it, waiting to engage me on a much deeper level. In the meantime, 4 stars.

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