Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 12A
  • Drama
  • 1969

La Piscine

La Piscine


Sexual tension turns deadly in a French drama starring Sixties sex symbols Alain Delon, Romy Schneider and Jane Birkin


Re-released by Park Circus Films in September 2011 - follow @ParkCircusFilms on Twitter

The impossibly attractive Jean-Paul (played by Alain Delon) and his impossibly attractive girlfriend, Marianne (played by Romy Schneider), spend their summer at an isolated villa near St. Tropez, sunbathing, having exquisite sex and plunging into the eponymous pool. Their routine is disrupted by the arrival of old friend Harry (Maurice Roney) and Penelope (Jane Birkin), the 18-year-old daughter they didn't know he had. Though Harry is supposedly Jean-Paul's friend, Jean-Paul believes that Marianne knows him far more intimately and this festering suspicion, coupled with Jean-Paul's scarcely suppressed desire for Penelope, creates a perfect storm of sexual jealousy that leads to a watery tragedy and eventually arouses the interest of a Gallic gumshoe.

The film clearly belongs to a different time: one when French actors were unquestionably the coolest on Earth and when insouciantly smoking Galouises was the sexiest action anyone could undertake. Some of the Sixties decor and dancing is a little laughable in the post-Austin Powers era, but in general the film has aged well. The tension, both sexual and dramatic, constantly crackles and the casting is practically perfect. Delon and Schneider showcase the chemistry that made them lovers in real life (particularly in a scene in which he whips her bare back with a branch lustily torn from a tree) and Birkin, in the year in which her faux-orgasmic groans on Serge Gainsbrough's UK number one ‘Je t'aime' brought her international infamy, is superb as a sullen, long-legged Lolita.

The problems come with the characters. All of them start off as irresistibly sexy but soon show themselves to be shallow and self-obsessed, and so it becomes difficult to care who ends up doing what to whom. Also, every time Harry is alone with his daughter, things turn a bit Bouquet of Barbed Wire and the incestuous undercurrents are uncomfortable to observe (although they do add an extra frisson to the developing love quadrangle).

Ultimately, La Piscine plays like mash-up of the French classics Le Mepris and Les Diaboliques, though it's not quite in their class. If you loved them, you'll like this. If you've yet to watch them, however, they are certainly more deserving of your time.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Romy Schneider, Alain Delon, Jane Birkin
  • Director: Jacques Deray
  • Screen Writer: Jean-Claude Carrière
  • Composer: Jean-Jacques Tarbes

In a nutshell

A sexy but slow-moving slice of Sixties style that merits more attention than its been given on this side of the Channel. Its hardly an overlooked classic, though.

by Scott Jordan Harris

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    The Salt Of The Earth

    Brazilian documentary about the life of visionary photographer Sebastião Salgado, directed by Wim Wenders and Sebastião's son Juliano Ribeiro Salgado.

  • Film4


    AnnaLynne McCord stars as a teenager with an unhealthy fascination with gore and surgery.

    On Film4: 29 Oct 11:05PM

  • Film4

    Black Cinema Season on Film4

    To tie-in with the launch of the BFIs Black Star season, Film4 presents a celebration of black filmmaking talent both in front of and behind the camera.

  • Film4

    FilmFear on Film4

    This Halloween, Film4 becomes FilmFear. Join us for seven nights of petrifying premieres and classics from the crypt.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF 2016: Top Ten Editor Michael Leader runs through ten standouts from the Toronto International Film Festival...   The Oath I'd already seen three of the four Film4-backed films screening in Toronto (inc

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Baltasar Kormakur on The Oath

    As his Film4-backed Icelandic thriller The Oath premieres in Toronto, director/writer/actor Baltasar Kormakur speaks with editor Michael Leader about making films in Hollywood, returning to

Register with

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register