La Piscine (The Swimming Pool)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

5/5 (1)

“La Piscine” (1969) is Jacques Deray’s classic film of intrigue and jealousy, starring the iconic Alain Delon and Romy Schneider. The film is a colorful, glossy, tense drama that rivals Hitchcock and Highsmith. From the first sight of the immersive blue water on Cote d’Azur, you are hooked. The film is rich, anxious and luxuriant.

Jean-Paul (Alain Delon) is a laconic ne’er do well spending time with his girlfriend Marianne (Romy Schneider). Marianne is content to have him all to herself, but when the egotistical and extroverted Harry (Maurice Ronet) comes in for a loud car-honking visit with his spacey and demure daughter Penelope (Jane Birkin), things get steamy. Feline Marianne looks at Penelope. Penelope looks at Jean Paul. Piercing eyes and passive aggressive comments abound.

Alain Delon is wonderful as the opaque and selfish Jean-Paul, the embodiment of Albert Camus in a movie star body. Delon commands the screen and the camera sizzles in front of him. Schneider is riveting, reminiscent of Kim Novak. Birkin is perfectly nonchalant with a manipulative edge.

The film is a sumptuous sensation of narcissist noir eye-candy that keeps you guessing. This film has inspired other films like “A Bigger Splash” from the always arresting Luca Guaradino and “Swimming Pool” from François Ozon. “La Piscine” is where it all began.

For sun, shade and malevolence there is nothing better than “La Piscine.” See this beautifully restored example of toxic tan lines while you can.

Spaced out gazes full of dread, indifference and lust have seldom been captured so thoroughly in the French Summer’s bright glare.

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