My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.

This week focuses on a double feature with two movies set in and around swimming pools, THE SWIMMER and LA PISCINE.



Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

How do you turn a short story of less than twenty pages into a feature film? That’s a question I have been asking myself often, especially when adapting one of Hemingway’s short stories, and Frank Perry’s THE SWIMMER is a fascinating, flawed attempt to do just that.

The filmmaker takes John Cheever’s mysterious short, which I haven’t read since college, and stretches it into a 90 plus minute dramatic film starring Burt Lancaster (perfect for the role). Some of what he uses to make the runtime are stylized montages, semi-trippy cinematography and editing that screams the late 60s. And those are probably the weakest moments of THE SWIMMER. Like a lot of films that indulged in such style from that era, these “artistic” touches don’t age well; they date the film and distract from its stronger elements, which are the quiet, sometimes disturbing dialog scenes between Lancaster and those he encounters.

The interactions grow more bizarre as the film and his journey from pool to pool proceed. His character and background come into shape. The script alone does a fine job of slowly revealing Lancaster’s character to us, while his reaction to people is mysterious. Perry does get that surreal quality in the picture, a dream-like odyssey as he hears things about his own life that clearly do not register (or that he doesn’t want to register as if he’s living a fantasy) and parts of the movie captures the eeriness of a TWILIGHT ZONE episode with more depth.

There is much to be analyzed in THE SWIMMER, the film and original source. It’s a work that stayed with me for days. If only Perry had played it straight and not let indulged in the silly cinematic trends of the time, it would be an even better movie.

Watched on Criterion Channel



Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

LA PISCINE takes place in the hot sun but it is a cold-blooded picture. Led by the always icy Delon, its temperature might run too cold, unable to raise any emotions out of its viewer (at least this one).

The French “thriller” looks great and it has that ease I love from its nation’s cinema. It has a sensuality under the surface which promises a sexy, passionate film that never quite emerges. Instead, it remains detached, uninvolved much like Delon’s character. That works in some of his pictures but I’m not sure it worked here. The whole time I was thinking about the remake A BIGGER SPLASH and wondering if Luca’s version was actually better. It was a messy movie but its emotions ran high, and a brilliant Ralph Fiennes performance gave it life. It’s not as well made as LA PISCINE but it’s ironically a better film and so is SWIMMING POOL, another erotic French thriller set by a piscine which shares the same title but is not a remake.

I’m glad I saw LA PISCINE but other than that one scene that you don’t want to tell anyone about before they see it, I doubt I will remember much of it.

Watched on Criterion Channel