“Swimming Pool” (1969)

Paleo Retiree writes:


The 1969 Alain Delon/Romy Schneider/Maurice Ronet/Jane Birkin movie, co-written by Jean-Carriere Carrière and directed by Jacques Deray. Sexy/playful/ sinister erotic games in a villa near St. Tropez, and pure bliss for me. Delon is a vain, jaded, prettier-than-any-woman child-man; Schneider is his glamorous lover, appalled yet fulfilled by him, and more attached to him than she knows is good for her. Ronet is an ex-lover of Schneider’s who — accompanied by his bewildered and, needless to say, unreasonably sexy teenage daughter (Birkin) — stops by for a visit.

It’s a stunningly confident and virtuosic film: Glossily beautiful people, decor, settings and photography; oblique, sleekly enigmatic storytelling; serene, quiet, and subtle staging and shooting … In genre, the film is like one of those Harold Pinter / Joseph Losey films about bored, unhappy married couples, only “Swimming Pool” doesn’t turn bitchy, cold and nasty in the educated-English way; instead, it’s richly sensuous and (though a jolt of coldhearted / clinical “Liaisons Dangereuses” – style psychological penetration does enter into the mix) entrancingly sexy. In fact, it’s one of the most confident and sizzling expressions of ’60s French star power and high style (those eyes! those bodies! those tans!) that I’ve ever watched.

swimmingpool-delon-schneiderDon’t expect much in the way of American-style action: For most of the movie you’re doing little but observing gorgeous people pose, move about semi-naked, smoke and eat, interact suavely (while remaining stylishly in command of tons of supercharged subtext), play decadently with erotic dynamite, and occasionally get down to some lazy-but-hot, impossibly chic sex. (How do the French maintain their fatalistic poise even while making l’amour?) Delon and Schneider’s roles are cheeky variants on their own public personae, a naughty move that adds another layer of luscious, narcissistic flirtiness to the whole experience.

Watching the film is like spending an indolent afternoon sunbathing amidst great-looking, half-dressed people while sipping cocktails and leafing through the best issues that Paris Match ever published. I watched “Swimming Pool” feeling like a happy, starstruck and thrilled teenager. It’s everything I hoped movies — and adult life, come to think of it — would turn out to be. What’s French for “Vavavoom!”?


  • I also loved the 2003 François Ozon film of the same name. (Same title, same South-of-France setting, and both films qualify as sexy psychological suspense. Otherwise, though, they’re quite different.) Both films are available on Netflix Instant.
  • I’m working on a theory that Jacques Deray, who specialized in crime pictures, and who was influenced by American movies in a more straightforward and commercial way than the New Wave filmmakers were, is a majorly underappreciated auteur, at least in the English-speaking world — the French seem to have been aware all along that he was awfully good. (A great quote from Deray: “I have always defended the thriller, because it is a spectacle of the highest order.”) But, in all honesty, I haven’t yet watched enough of his movies to make that argument responsibly. Still: what a picture his 1973 “The Outside Man” is!
  • Read a bit more about Jacques Deray. Here’s an informative obit.

About Paleo Retiree

Onetime media flunky and movie buff and very glad to have left that mess behind. Formerly Michael Blowhard of the cultureblog 2Blowhards.com. Now a rootless parasite and bon vivant on a quest to find the perfectly-crafted artisanal cocktail.
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6 Responses to “Swimming Pool” (1969)

  1. They should make you the ambassador the French movie industry.


  2. fenster says:

    I just saw this one, and Outside Man, too. Probably not a coincidence, probably something you wrote a couple of months back. Anyway, I thought they were both great.

    Love the quote, too: ”I have always defended the thriller, because it is a spectacle of the highest order.” Is there any way that could not be Gallic in origin?


  3. Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

    Love “Outside Man.”


  4. Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

    “Borsalino,” made just after “Swimming Pool,” is sort of interesting. I didn’t love it, but it’s a major influence on John Woo, I think, as well as on the buddy genre in general. It’s pretty homoerotic. Rocco Siffredi got his name from one of the characters in the movie. Sautet worked on the screenplay.

    I’ve seen a bunch of stuff Deray did around the early ’70s, but aside from “Swimming Pool” and “Outside Man,” nothing blew me away. “Le Marginal,” made in the early ’80s, is like a French stab at making a Stallone-era American action picture.


  5. Pingback: Listing Movies: Man-Movie Addendum | Uncouth Reflections

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