Wed July 23, 2003
Rampling is proof that still waters run deep.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
Not since "The Graduate" has a swimming pool carried as much motif heft as it does Francois Ozon's "Swimming Pool."
Not since the recent "Adaptation" has the art and craft of writing been so carefully and dramatically depicted as in Ozon's film.
Although the central character, Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling), is a Ms. Marpole or Jessica Fletcher type--crime fiction maven--the film tries to weave her middle-aged, repressed artist into a mystery plot as psychologically energetic as any psychoanalysis. Throw into the mix the stranger motif, "The-Trouble-with-Harry" visitor, who disrupts vacations and lives, who changes things, as Flannery O'Connor might allow.
Most of the film is planted exquisitely in Rampling's supple body and mind, where her real and imaginative lives contend for prominence. Ozon and Rampling in "Under the Sand" achieved similar success in the mind of a professor who can't let go of her recently deceased husband.
The last part of "Swimming Pool", where plot ends are tied up and mental health again an issue, remarkably comments on the confluence of the mind and reality for a writer. When Sarah deflects an ardent fan on the London Tube by telling her that the woman she recognizes is not who she seems to be, Ozon prepares us for a personal journey of discovery that fuses personal anxieties and longings with the tyranny of a profession that, as in "Barton Fink," requires trauma to test the limits of expression.
"Murder She Wrote" would have sufficed for the title as the story moves from inside Morton to the reality of random sex, female aggression, and family loss. Like the pool that is covered and uncovered almost without plan, the detritus under the cover is as telling as the story itself.
Ozon is a master of Rampling's subtle expression--few actresses even this far in their careers are as expressively understated and indisputably attractive as she. She is proof that still waters run deep.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org on Thursdays at 8:01 pm and Fridays at 3:01 pm.