Swimming Pool (2003) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Spoilers, but it doesn't matter.

If you have read have some articles about and/or reviews of Swimming Pool in America, you are probably completely deceived about the nature of this film, as I was yesterday. It is not a thriller of any kind. In fact, nothing even vaguely mysterious happens until 72 minutes into the film. It is, on the surface, a slow moving character-driven psychological crime mystery of the type that used to dominate the episodes of The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents, more suggestion than delivery, complete with the requisite twist at the end that explains many of the plot elements that seemed particularly clumsy.

You see, those plot devices were clumsy for a reason.

It turns out that this is not even a crime mystery, but simply an analysis of the creative thought process that goes into creating such a mystery. In fact, I've actually spoiled the whole film for you already, but watch it anyway, because, trust me, you have no idea what I am talking about, and will not even realize why I've spoiled it until the film is over and you've re-read these words.


  • Ludivine Sagnier shows everything eventually, and is topless quite often.
  • Charlotte Rampling does full-frontal nudity.

And even then you may not understand what I mean, or you may not agree with my interpretation.

Frankly, I'm at a loss to explain the love affair between this film and the American arty set, led by the critics. The British critics were not enthusiastic at all, averaging 2.6 stars out of four, according to the Guardian's estimates. Two and a half stars is about where I would peg it as well. Maybe three.


There is lots of good news:

  1. It is a good film, just not the one that the critics led you to expect. Although it has a leisurely pace, it's filled with a beautiful woman who is naked constantly (Ludivine Sagnier), lurid sex scenes, outrageous seductions (Rampling has a seduction scene with a guy who must be 80), vivid murders, deeply-guarded secrets, mysterious dwarves, villagers who cross themselves and shut the doors when asked certain questions, disappearing/reappearing crucifixes, and what have you. It plays out like a slow, arty, Ingmar Bergman remake of Wild Things.

  2. Although it is a French film, it is mostly in the English language.

  3. It's a beautifully mastered DVD of a film that looked great to begin with.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • unrated, uncut version

Like many a psychological mystery, especially European ones, the pace is glacial at the beginning. It never fires up to hot rod speed, but  it does pick up, and I think many of you will enjoy this.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus: three stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3/4.

  • General UK consensus: two and a half stars. Mail 8/10, Telegraph 4/10, Independent 4/10, Guardian 4/10, Times 8/10, Sun 6/10, Express 8/10, BBC 4/5

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. A cult hit. It grossed ten million dollars in the USA, despite never reaching as many as 260 screens.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C. Good, not great psychological mystery, ala Hitchcock. If you rate it as a piece of soft erotica, the grade would be C+.  Spectacular nudity from Sagnier, and even from the 58 year old Rampling.

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