With the remake of La Piscine starring Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, and Dakota Johnson to be released soon, this TBT review seemed appropriate.
A psychological thriller starring European icons Romy Schneider and Alain Delon, who had been an off-screen couple until 1963, La Piscine is a superb film of European-style suspense, The film, set in the majestic Cote ’d Azur on the French Riviera, was filmed both in French and English languages, which was rare at the time since international films that were deemed important to international distributors were simply dubbed in the language where the film was projected to be screened. This was partly because of the expected popularity of the film, given that Schneider and Delon were already established actors not only in Europe, but also in America.
Marianne (played by Scheneider) is vacationing at a friend’s villa with her lover, Jean-Paul (played by Delon). Attractive and bourgeois, the two have a passionate but turbulent relationship, which is made clear in the opening scene as Marianne asks Jean-Paul to scratch her back, and as he does so, suddenly throws her into the pool, which prompts Marianne to walk away visibly upset. This way, Deray sets the mise-en-scene for the turmoil will set the pace for the rest of the film. The pool itself is a main character in the film, a centerpiece for the sensual and erotic chemistry between Marianne and Jean-Paul, the pale blue of the water brightly glowing with the sun’s reflection and appearing both inviting and enticing.
As Marianne goes into the house to change her wet bathing suit, she receives a call from her old friend and former lover Harry, a record producer who is vacationing nearby. She eagerly asks him to come over for a visit, and he complies bringing along his 18 year old daughter Penelope (played by Jane Birkin) who clearly is not pleased by neither her father or his friends, although she is slightly more relaxed and at ease with Jean-Paul. Harry, an alcoholic, mercilessly criticizes Jean-Paul for selling himself to advertisement, and giving up on his more respectful writing career. As the days go by, tensions start to rise as the attraction between Jean_Paul and the adolescent Penelope becomes apparent, and Harry tries desperately to get Marianne back into his bed. As to not reveal the ending for those who have not yet seen this film, it is enough to say that final confrontations between Jean-Paul and Harry will reach a most brutal end, the swimming pool transformed from an object of inviting sensuality to a resting place for violence and revenge, prompted by the hands of jealousy and the desire to selfishly possess.
La Piscine was not granted any awards, but it was one of the most popular films to be screened in France during the year of its release in 1969.