F.I.L.M. of the Week (August 16, 2013)

16 08 2013

As the summer begins to wrap up, it might be a good time to squeeze in a viewing of Francois Ozon’s steamy “Swimming Pool,” my selection for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”  While this scintillating thriller makes the most sense for a seasonal watch, I’m fully convinced it could stand up in any of the other nine months of the year.  It’s a completely engaging film with a plot that will envelop you entirely as it prepares for a killer final act.

The action begins when Charlotte Rampling’s Sarah Morton, a British mystery author beginning to hit a creative wall, settles into her boss’ French country house to get her creative juices flowing.  Just as she begins to find enough quietude in the locale to write a new book, Sarah gets an unexpected house guest: her publisher’s daughter, the young and capricious Julie (Ludivine Sagnier).  The two mix like oil and water as the crotchety Sarah refuses to entertain any of Julie’s whims.

However, as we dive deeper into “Swimming Pool,” we begin to see that Sarah is deriving a sort of perverse inspiration from Julie’s various romantic exploits.  As she begins to observe, the real-life drama begins to spill onto the page … or perhaps it’s the other way around?  Ozon throws the boundary between reality and fiction into complete question towards the film’s finale, one that leaves us reeling for days.

That conclusion would not work, though, were it not for Ozon’s tight and precise direction throughout “Swimming Pool.”  He makes every moment build tension until it bursts by the end.  It also helps that Rampling and Sagnier are quite a devious duo, playing with and off each other in brilliant ways.  Combining all their power makes for one refreshingly original and captivating thriller.

REVIEW: Love Crime

31 07 2013

Love CrimeAlain Corneau’s “Love Crime” is one of those rare slow-burn thrillers that delivers in the end.  (Perhaps I need to start watching more French movies, because American ones that try this seem to fail more often than succeed.)  The film is rather understated, never succumbing to easy sensationalism – although that didn’t stop me from thinking it was lurking around every corner.

“Love Crime” is particularly intriguing to watch unfold because its main character, Ludivine Sagnier’s Isabelle, is so enigmatic.  Her actions are puzzling because she seems to be setting herself up for an unnecessarily tough short game in order to win in the long game.  Saviginier clues us into the fact that Isabelle has a very sneaky master plan up her sleeves, but we’re left guessing as her introversion gives us little to work with.

Her boss Christine, played by Kristin Scott Thomas in a hint of what was to come in “Only God Forgives,” sets Isabelle up for madness and retaliation by exploiting her work at the ad agency.  Their relationship, while clearly hostile and imbalanced, could have been explored a little bit more to really make “Love Crime” a steamier and more intense thriller.  Even as is, however, Corneau’s final film is one worth watching because its conclusion delivers when it needs to.  B2halfstars