Swimming Pool review

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Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling) is an uptight English mystery writer who's feeling blocked by her latest book. When her publisher (Charles Dance) offers her the use of his villa in the south of France, she accepts, hoping he'll visit as well. Instead, his 19-year-old French daughter Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) shows up unannounced and ensconces herself, bikini-clad and frequently topless, by the leaf-strewn swimming pool.

Kittenish Julie sets Sarah bristling, especially when she starts bringing home a series of one-night stands for noisy shags. But, amid the heat and the haze, Sarah grows fascinated with this strange, liberated girl, gradually realising she's much smarter - - and much more damaged - - than she initially appears.

This is François Ozon's follow-up to last year's campy 8 Women, and the French helmer here returns to the understated territory of his previous venture with Rampling, Under The Sand (woman struggles with denial after hubby's death). Still, there's no mistaking his playful delight in tackling power games, aquatic imagery and genre dissection - - all done with his distinctive, kinky sensibility.

This being Ozon's first English-language movie, Swimming Pool is certainly an attempt to net a bigger international audience and it deserves to, though some viewers might be put off by the director's ignorance as to how publishing works or by the faintly silly closing scene.

Don't be. The rest of the film is magnificent, Ozon taking a tried-and-tested concept - after a stranger ruffles feathers, introspection, self-improvement and reconciliation follow - and gives it a unique flavour. The movie's midsection glides by on a tide of mounting threat, while the dazzling, sun-seared cinematography provide the plot's dark shadows with a hard-edged glint. Rampling and Sagnier also turn in sharply tuned, complementary performances, with the younger actress' Bardot-esque sexpot, all vulnerability and menace, proving especially memorable.

Take a plunge and enjoy this bracing sun-and-shade-dappled puzzler. It's a by-turns erotic, creepy and often very funny dip into deep, murky waters.

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