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  • 12A
  • Drama
  • 1969

La Piscine

La Piscine

Synopsis

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

About

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: Jane Birkin, Romy Schneider, Alain Delon
  • 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

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