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Blowing the Whistle on the Christian Church in America:
The Hypocrisy and Double Standards Exposed

. "Swimming Pool"

It takes many minutes to get to know this lady and, then, only in small details set forth sparingly, as though we're not at all in a rush to convince you of anything. About her; about who she is.

Oh, we get to know right away that she's Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling) a somewhat off-putting, successful British mystery novelist who doesn't relate well to people, even to her own readers. Her publisher John Bosload (the always estimable Charles Dance), recognizing her need for some mental and career rejuvenation, offers her the use of his vacation villa in France to recharge her batteries. Asking for his commitment to come visit while she's there, she gets none, but goes anyway.

Once there, she checks out John's digs and they're not so bad. She enters the bedroom of choice and, in a silent glimpse at a feature of the woman, she finds a cross on the wall over the bed and removes it. The next day, her tiredness and low mood vanishes as she finds refreshment in the luxury of privacy and the charm of the nearby village. Soon, a new novel is under way, work that obviously energizes her. But the idyllic revery is brought to a smashing halt when, one night, a young lady noisily and unexpectedly arrives, bags in hand. She's Julie, John's daughter, come to stay at the old man's pad.

Both Julie and Sarah are angry at John's failure to warn each of the other's right to occupy the house. Sarah turns out to be a nymphet who doesn't like to sleep alone and whose companion of the night (every night, in an insatiable parade) is likely to appear over breakfast in any sort of attire or none at all, a succession of encounters not to Sarah's liking, at all; one that brings out the latent crankiness. The opposite types are soon at each other's throats, trying to effect some way to deal with the situation.

Julie's free-spirited ways, which often include frequent displays of nakedness, begin to attract Sarah. We're not sure if it's a sexual interest at all, but it is a definite turnon to the author at work. As she types furiously, we get the idea that she's now writing about Julie, using her as a character in her new book. Soon, she's even tossing Julie's room for hints of obscure or secret traits, unseen but somehow sensed complexities, and discovers the mother lode, Julie's diary.

Perhaps because of the better understanding of her subject, or an increased respect for her, Sarah invites Julie to dinner as a truce offering, which develops into an uneasy bond -- one that produces new forms of expression and outlet for both of them.

Murder, mystery and new patterns of behavior between two women who couldn't be more opposite and, before you know it, we think we're in the novel being written. Could it be?

Director Francois Ozon fabricates an engrossing mystery thriller by throwing disparate samples of the female gender together and finding a way to make the mixture more explosive than forcing oil and water to go into solution.

Superb film veteran Rampling (65 films in the can) shows a character arc that lifts her well beyond the classy Englishwoman she obviously is with slowly streaming revelation and development. Thoroughly French Sagnier, who was in Ozon's "8 Women" and played Hortense in the "Napoleon" miniseries, is a convincing sensualist, both self-adoring and desperately needful, turning us off; turning us on.

The picture is a unique creation and cries for our attention and appreciation in a season of splashy competition. I don't want to call it an arthouse picture, for that label is instant death, but art it is.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Ludivine Sagnier, Charlotte Rampling
The attraction of opposites

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