La piscine [1969]

3/10 | 17.Sep.12
La piscine

DIRECTOR: Jacques Deray | WRITERS: Jean-Claude Carrière, Jacques Deray, Alain Page | CAST: Alain Delon, Romy Schneider, Maurice Ronet, Jane Birkin | France

Failed novelist and now advertising copy writer Jean-Paul and his lover Marianne, a successful writer of some sort, are vacationing in the gargantuan villa on a hillside overlooking the Mediterranean just outside St.-Tropez that belongs to their artsy globe-trotting gay friends Marc and Lucien who are off on yet another of their holidays, this time to India. Out of the blue one day Harry, Jean-Paul’s old friend and possibly Marianne’s previous lover, calls to say he’s in town, and when he arrives in a Maserati with Penelope, the 18-year-old daughter no one knew existed, the set up is complete for the plot to kick into high gear and go. But it doesn’t.

Jean-Paul is suspicious of Marianne and Harry who in turn are suspicious of Jean-Paul and Penelope. There’s jealousy, rivalry, alcoholism. It’s August on the Côte d’Azur in a villa with a spectacular swimming pool and beautiful rich people. Gorgeous former real-life lovers Alain Delon and Romy Schneider are in bathing suits, pawing at each other, for half the movie, with Maurice Ronet and Jane Birkin standing by to stir up (erotic) trouble. So what’s the problem? For starters, the movie feels derivative (and in the second half plainly is, particularly of Plein soleil and Les diaboliques), with a schematic and formulaic screenplay; Jacques Deray’s directing is monotonous, slack, aimless, flabby; and the acting is what you’d expect at the first run-through rehearsal of a play where the actors are still trying out physical bits and experimenting with line readings, with the one notable exception of Jane Birkin, who gives quite possibly the single worst, most amateurish performance in a substantive part in an A-movie that I have ever seen. You can actually see Birkin hesitate slightly before making any kind of movement, as if she’s trying to remember what Deray explicitly told her to do and she’s not sure she remembers it right. Or maybe she was just awakened from a coma and hadn’t yet completely remastered the ability to walk and work the muscles in her face. The spectacularly annoying song under the opening credits and two laughable rock numbers that Michel Legrand and Alan and Marylin (sic) Bergman wrote for the party scene do perk up the proceedings some, and it’s always agreeable to see two stunningly beautiful half-naked people lolling around in the sun, but nothing manages to breathe life into this movie.

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