The sense of tragedy permeating the the air in 1969′s La Piscine can’t be given a name, but within a handful of minutes, you know something dark is lurking around the corner. Now, as the film hits theaters 52 years after its original run, we’re still only seeing a Fitzgerald-like facade.
Marienne (Romy Schneider) and Paul (Alain Delon) have spent their summer lounging around the pool locked into deep desire for one another, but when an old friend (Maurice Ronet) and his daughter (Jane Birkin) arrive as unexpected guests, a newfound series of seductions and jealousies erupt. These poolside tactics prove to only be a shadow game in over-arching quests for power, both sexual and otherwise, and with the emptiness of the central characters’ lives laid bare, the struggle for control over even the most meaningless things can turn the other unrecognizable in an instant. Thus, La Piscine’s Marxist commentary tries to explore the vapidness of bourgeois lives and people whose primary function appears to be keeping up appearances and ignoring all the rest.
Perhaps since its initial release in ’69, a film about sex-starved Euros sitting poolside in the summertime doesn’t ring so novel, but La Piscine is almost alarmingly sexy for its time and with so much skin on display you might let out an involuntary gasp. Its erotic thrills pair well with its slow evolution, and while that’ll certainly grate on some audiences who aren’t deep into Mediterranean thought pieces. That’s something for which cinema-nerds should forgive the general public—these movies can be tough for the uninitiated.
As for the film’s restoration, it will hopefully remind you how impactful color in cinema can be, particularly when we apply its use to La Piscine’s original release window. Take away one shade and you’ll be left with a totally different experience; restorations like these remind us of there are aesthetics digital can’t capture. As such, La Piscine might be slow, but it is also steady and bright—and dark. Francophiles are safe here.
+ A visual pleasure
- Conclusion drags
Directed by Jacques Deray
With Schneider, Delon and Ronet
CCA Cinema, NR, 123 min