Swimming Pool is one of those erotic dramas that toys with thriller elements without ever really becoming a full blown suspense film, at least not in the traditional sense. Directed with extreme specificity by Francois Ozon, this 2003 British/French mind-teaser features two startling performances, one from lead Charlotte Rampling, and the other from Ludivine Sagnier, who does some of the most effortless on screen nudity that I’ve ever seen in a film. Ozon and co-screenwriter Emmanuèle Bernheim’s narrative is simple on the surface, but beyond tricky in the fine details, and I’d never want to spoil anything, so all that I’ll say is that Rampling plays a successful writer who accepts an invitation from her longtime publisher (Charles Dance, excellent as usual) to spend some time at his gorgeous French country house in an effort to get cracking on her new mystery novel. But before she can get into any sort of creative groove, her publisher’s promiscuous and free spirited daughter shows up, looking to crash at the villa and hang out topless by the pool, while bringing home an interesting selection of men at night to entertain.
This is a very sexy movie, and if you’re looking for a film to get the juices flowing and isn’t afraid to confront hot-blooded sexuality up front and center, this one will certainly do the trick. Sagnier’s glistening body is repeatedly studied by Ozon and cinematographer Yorick Le Saux’s patient camera, and it’s clear that she was an actress very comfortable in her own skin while shooting, because there’s hardly a scene where she’s not unclothed to some degree. Rampling’s internal psyche is explored in interesting ways all throughout the twisty narrative, and while I’m reluctant to describe the plot any further, I’ll allow that the fates of both Rampling and Sagnier become crucially intertwined, with the film coming to a close on an abstruse note of moral questionability and psychological complexity. Philippe Rombi’s playful musical score knew when to twist the screws and when to have some fun. Swimming Pool premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and Ozon’s unrated director’s cut is available on disc.