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« Public Choice | Main | Paul Johnson on art »

July 18, 2003

Francois Ozon Redux

Friedrich --

Inspired by his movie Swimming Pool (my brilliant, amazing, etc. posting about it is here), I treated myself to a Francois Ozon film festival over the last week. I re-saw "Swimming Pool" and caught up with some of his earlier films -- 8 Women, Water Drops on Burning Rocks, and See the Sea -- on DVD. (Not being a huge Charlotte Rampling fan, I couldn't bring myself to face his well-received recent "Under the Sand.") Verdict? What a prodigy, young/sly/postmodern-gay division.

Interesting to see "Swimming Pool" with a paying audience, even if it was a paying Upper West Side audience, if you know what I mean. The film left them a little puzzled but quite happy, and it got a lot more earned laughter than I expected. The precisely-calibrated moments of tension, observation, unease, semi-release, and discomfort worked beautifully. The audience clearly enjoyed spending a couple of hours feeling creeped-out, aroused, and sunstruck. They had themselves a sexily subtle foreign-film experience, in other words.

8 women.jpg
3 of the 8 women, amidst just a tiny bit of the decor

As for the earlier films: I strongly recommend "Water Drops on Burning Rocks." "See the Sea" is virtuosic and has other virtues too, but it's basically a student film. "8 Women," although a big hit with with the staider art-movie audience, left me almost completely cold, huge fan though I am of many of the gals in the cast (Beart, Deneuve, Ledoyen, etc). It's like a Broadway showpiece that's all about stunt-casting -- Agatha Christie meets "The Women" pretty much summarizes it, although without doing justice to the film's eye-popping decor. The narrative is all setups, catfights, big turns, reconciliations and camp interludes -- a long way from my kind of thing.


What do the bunch of you think you're doing? Horreurs! Now do it again

"Water Drops on Burning Rocks" isn't my kind of thing either, come to think of it, but I enjoyed it a lot anyway. Ozon adapted an early play by Fassbinder and turned it into a chic, malicious little jewel. I have a tough time sitting through Fassbinder's own movies, which I find charmless and grueling beyond belief. And this play, which he wrote when he was 19 and which was apparently never produced, is typical Fassbinder -- nasty, ambi-sexual, mind-fucky modernist parlor games. But with Ozon adapting and directing, it becomes a droll, deadpan, exquisite entertainment. Brilliant performances from all four actors (including the divine Ludivine Sagnier, who's also on display in "8 Women" and "Swimming Pool"), tons of slyly delivered, understated subtext, a stylish and spare use of visuals and sound that's gorgeous in itself and also highlights the erotic underpinnnings of everything happening on screen ... The whole movie has a cheerily kinky and wicked twinkle -- something I can't imagine anyone attributing to any of Fassbinder's own films.

So: a what-are-you-waiting-for thumbs-up to "Swimming Pool," and a hurry-to-your-video-store-now nod to "Water Drops on Burning Rocks." Now, admittedly, in order to find "Water Drops," you've got to live near one really, really good video store ...

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at July 18, 2003




Comments

Interesting to see "Swimming Pool" with a paying audience, even if it was a paying Upper West Side audience, if you know what I mean. Um, not sure I do know what you mean, no: Do you mean that UWS denizens are more attuned to filmmaking subtleties, and that an audience in Peoria, even if they'd paid good money for their tickets, wouldn't quite have the requisite sophistication to fully understand this movie?

Also, I haven't seen this one yet, but I have seen Laurel Canyon: a similar mix of older and younger women learning about sex from each other around a swimming pool, but this time with roles reversed, it would seem. Or not?

Posted by: Felix on July 18, 2003 02:02 PM



It might be hard for you to enjoy if you don't like Rampling, but of all of Ozon's movies I saw, "Under the Sand" was definitely the best. I found "Swimming Pool" to be predictable, full of clichés about writers and Rampling's acting in it was stiff (and I usually like her), except in her scenes with the French waiter. I swear, if there had not been so much talk about the beautiful breasts of the young actress, I don't think this movie would be as successful as it's been so far.

"Under the Sand" is slow but it manages to grip you and truly move you. I felt a heavier sense of suspense watching it then watching "Swimming Pool", which made me impatient. Incidentally, the same writer (Bernheim) helped Ozon write the screenplays for both of these films. So go rent it! It would be a shame to see all of Ozon's work and miss his best film!

Posted by: Martine on July 18, 2003 02:14 PM



Hey Felix, back in the States? Time to do some downtown hanging. No, actually, I was hoping to get a dig in at the UWS foreign-film audience, which I often find pretty annoying. They're such a moralizing, Art & Leisure section, Woody-Allen-loving bunch that I was honestly a bit surprised that they enjoyed the very amoral "Swimming Pool" as much as they did. Thanks for the "Laurel Canyon" tip -- I'll have to check it out. I wonder if it's on DVD yet.

Hey Martine -- Thanks for urging me to see "Under the Sand," which I guess you're right, I'll have to catch up with. Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy "Swimming Pool." I took it as psych-suspense film games, myself. You didn't get a kick out of the dance scene where Ludivine brings home the waiter, and all the attractions and loyalties go shifting around the room? I thought that was especially well handled. It's not as if Ludivine's breasts influenced my judgment, or anything like that...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 18, 2003 02:36 PM



Sure Michael, sure. ;-)

Actually, even though I didn't like everything about "Swimming Pool" - which, in Québec, has to be called "La piscine de François Ozon" for some odd legal reason - I still managed to enjoy parts of it. Yes, the dance scene was good, and so was the long dinner conversation. I also appreciated the humour in the movie.

Did you notice that Ludivine is also in 8 women? She plays the young boyish-looking girl. Quite a difference!

Posted by: Martine on July 20, 2003 05:51 PM






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