La Piscine starts and we’re immediately drawn to the style of the film, particularly its smooth camera work, beads of sweat on tanned perfect skin, and beautiful people casually beauting at each other around the eponymous swimming pool. The swimming pool seems to be a metaphor for the relationship between the characters and their collective unconscious – it’s something that everybody has access to and is an important part of the lives of the characters.
La Piscine is about Jean-Paul, a writer, and Marianne, a journalist, whose cosy and seemingly idyllic life together is jarred by the arrival of Harry, a record producer and former lover of Marianne. Harry’s eighteen year-old daughter Penelope instantly attracts the attention of Jean-Paul, while Marianne and Harry set about getting reacquainted.
There are several words that crop up again and again in reference to this film – sumptuous, sexy, languid – and with good reason. But this film is more than just chocolate for the eyeballs and, when the camera isn’t creeping over the lithe bodies of the characters, actually manages some real depth and emotion. Small glimpses of hidden tragedy hidden under the surface of Jean-Paul and Marianne’s glistening relationship draws the viewer in, and the unbearable tension means that the film builds toward a tragedy in the traditional sense of the word.
La Piscine is finally re-released, and in the forty two years that have passed since its original cinematic release, not much has changed in the world of erotically charged thrillers. It seems like some things never change, and the draw of beautiful people in their underpants hating and loving each other is one that will continue forever.