Evaluation: Desire by the poolside electrifies psychodrama of 1969’s ‘La Piscine’


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Your summer film cocktail of sun-dappled wish with a splash of unhealthy provocation over ice is justa round the corner with the welcome restoration from the 1969 French film “La Piscine. ” It’s 2 hours of beautiful people in tantalizing states of undress and unease that may just have you practicing your own most chic mysterious chaise longue poses ahead of your next swim party.

Its director, Jacques Deray , is not really a name typically associated with the classic French cinema associated with his time. But in the journeyman’s career beginning in the early ’60s that emphasized personality-driven crime sagas, “La Piscine” and its pressurized sexual tension showed he could pull off something cool and stimulating, threatening and modern, as savvy about what courses underneath actual lives as it is distractingly gleaming on its luxe, sexy surface. (Though little observed in the U. S., the reputation was enough to inspire a remake within Luca Guadagnino’s underappreciated 2015 film “A Bigger Splash. ” )

Saint-Tropez holidays don’t get a lot more erotically photogenic than this movie’s opening moments, where a perfectly bronzed, buff plus blasé Alain Delon as well as a luminous, fresh-from-the-water Romy Schneider — playing vacationing couple Jean Paul and Marianne — engage in some teasing, merry poolside foreplay. Delon and Schneider had been a real-life item but had been friendly enough after isolating that he insisted Schneider end up being cast or else he wouldn’t do the film, and the stars’ chemistry readily rivals the wattage from this midday scene’s natural light source.


The easy sensuality soon is interrupted by word that a shared friend is on his method to the pair’s borrowed apartment — news not specifically well received by Blue jean Paul. But it isn’t simply imposingly chatty music professional Harry (Maurice Ronet) walking out of that glinting wine red Maserati at the front steps: He is brought along a beautiful teen daughter, Pénélope (Jane Birkin), whom nobody knew existed, and whose aloof poise and coltish sense of fashion instantly draws Jean Paul’s attention. (Early on, Delon, so good at opaque masculinity, grabs her hand, demanding to know her age. Whenever she says, “18, ” his impassive reaction is definitely ridiculously suspenseful. )

What transpires over the next few charged times of al fresco mornings, frisky afternoons and alcohol-laced nights — including an improvised party Harry throws for the purpose of his daughter’s birthday having a caravan’s worth of young guests — is a vibrating psychodrama about possessiveness plus insecurity. You can practically hear the ticking toward what ever violent reckoning has been put in place by this quartet’s baggage and maneuverings. The pool at this picturesque Riviera vacation is where these passions come to mix and clash. Specific longings emerge, and others find a watery demise.

The film is never ever just some glassy exercise within the idly loaded’s languorous rudeness, though. In each permanent magnetic performance (especially Schneider’s), in the sparse but piquant lines from the script co-written using the great, recently departed screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière (working from an Alain Page story), and in Deray’s attention to psychological humidity, lies something resolutely curious about human frailty within relationships. Delon’s A-list moue turns existential, Schneider’s loving gaze goes wandering, Ronet’s slyness hardens, and Birkin — the recipient of a few choice reaction shots, like fashion pages leaping out at you — increases wise to the gamesmanship of vulnerable adults.

Before you know it, a detective is usually haunting the grounds and “La Piscine” is absent the summery vibe, Deray and cinematographer Jean-Jacques Tarbès getting turned the temperature down visually and moodily to the equivalent of a stark, shadowy wade into a cold fish-pond. So much so, in fact , that the movie even suffers some for everyone that has vaporized in the after effects from one character’s unfortunate fate. (In real life, Delon has been questioned by police on set about the murder associated with his bodyguard, which turned into a political/Mafia scandal. )

Then again, one can expect the bracing punch of air on skin after emerging from the delights of a deep-end dive, which makes “La Piscine” and the celluloid-rich revival of its choreography of bodies and behavior more than just a superficial basking within the textures and temporalities associated with desire.

‘La Piscine’

Inside French with English subtitles

Not graded

Operating time: 2 hours, 3 minutes

Playing: Starts May 21, Laemmle Monica, Santa Monica; Laemmle Town Center, Encino; Laemmle Glendale