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DVD Reviews

HTF Review: Swimming Pool - Unrated Version



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#1 of 31 OFFLINE   Jason Perez

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Posted January 10 2004 - 01:22 AM

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Swimming Pool: Unrated Version













Studio: Universal

Year: 2003

Rated: Unrated

Film Length: 103 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)

Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish

Audio: English & French- Dolby Digital 5.1; English – DTS 5.1







Director François Ozon's first English-language film, Swimming Pool, is a taut, interesting character study that features an unexpectedly thought-provoking conclusion. In addition, the performances by its female leads, Charlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier, are impassioned and affecting. Perhaps one of the most noteworthy things about the film, however, is that it blurs the line between genres, moving slowly from a leisurely-paced drama to a relatively suspenseful thriller by its conclusion.

As Swimming Pool opens, we meet Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling), an English murder-mystery writer who is searching for herself in-between books. Despite her success as a writer, Sarah longs for some variety in her work, and hopes to use her creativity to reach beyond her trademark homicide investigation novels. Of course, being the shrewd businessman he is, her opportunistic publisher John Bosload (Charles Dance) is keen on having Sarah stay within her comfort zone, namely the crime stories that make him a lot of cash.

Interestingly, the film is quite vague, in terms of revealing how John and Sarah relate with one another outside their working arrangement, but in an effort to help Sarah find inspiration, John suggests that Sarah retreat to his lavish country home in France to get her creative juices flowing. Upon arriving, she does indeed find the house and environment delightful, and begins working in earnest again. However, the unannounced arrival of Mr. Bosload’s daughter, Julie (Ludivine Sagnier), whose penchant for lounging around in the nude, or bringing home much older men for sex, brings an unwelcome sense of tension into what had been a serene working environment for Sarah.

As might be expected, the two women’s very different attitudes lead to the development of quite a bit of antagonism and acrimony between them. To be more specific, the older and much more uptight Sarah is initially quite flummoxed by Julie’s wild, reckless behavior, but ultimately becomes fascinated enough by it to spy on her almost continuously. Although Julie’s unexpected arrival causes Ms. Morton to briefly lose focus on her work, she soon finds herself challenged to understand the free-spirited youth’s mentality. Indeed, the apparently prude Sarah seems to find Julie's uninhibited behavior quite liberating after a while, and whether intrigued, jealous, or just plain repulsed by Julie's unbridled sexuality, Sarah is so taken with Julie that she begins writing about her exploits.

Once she begins writing about her, Sarah craves even more insight into Julie’s actions, so she secretly watches her make love, watches her swim, and even steals her journal, which leads to the aforementioned prolific burst of writing. Unfortunately, Sarah’s snooping also sets a disturbing chain of events in motion, which places the writer into the kind of suspenseful situation she had previously been a party to only through her works of fiction.

Ironically, though both women are initially upset with each other's intrusions, Sarah is not the only one who becomes enthralled by the other’s persona. Though Julie is initially irritated with Sarah’s holier-than-thou attitude and criticisms of her behavior, it might be argued that she comes to see Sarah as a mentor of sorts, an individual in possession of the more rigid moral code that she lacks. Or perhaps Julie could see in Sarah the structure that is missing from her life, due to the lack of a mother figure.

I should not go into further details about the plot, but I do want to expound on the performances of the two leading ladies in Swimming Pool. To boil it down to a word, Charlotte Rampling is delightful as Sarah Morton. Her performance is intelligent, deliberate, and completely sells the novelist's bottled-up dissatisfaction, which makes her obvious invigoration with being caught up in Julie's suspenseful lifestyle all the more realistic.

Further, the seductive Ludivine Sagnier, who portrayed a similar fiery youth in 8 Women, also helmed by Ozon, just beams with sexuality and spirit as the enigmatic Julie, a young woman whose emotional distress and zest for living in the moment make up a unique, complex character. In my humble opinion, Sagnier brings a lot of passion (and acting chops) to this role, although I must admit that it was somewhat difficult to pay attention to the subtleties in her performance, since she is semi-nude during most of her scenes (go ahead and heckle me, but you try paying attention and see just how tough it is! Posted Image ).

All kidding aside though, both Sagnier and Rampling excel in Swimming Pool, and appropriately ratchet up the tension as the film’s intrigue builds. The elements of erotica and criminal intrigue also help to give Ozon’s story a uniquely organic and unpolished feel. Even more importantly, over the course of Swimming Pool’s running time, the director also develops a myriad of potential twists from which to choose, and ultimately elects to wrap things up in a way that should have most people re-thinking everything they have just witnessed, as any well-crafted noir thriller should do.

NOTE: I did not see this in a theater, so I cannot say for sure what the Unrated edition contains that the R-rated cut does not, but there is nothing too extreme in this film, unless you find full frontal nudity objectionable.





SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
Focus Features’ Swimming Pool contains some beautiful scenery, in terms of locations and characters, and Universal’s anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer does a fine job of bringing this beauty into home theaters. In particular, I found flesh tones to be quite accurate, and color reproduction in general was commendable, although bright reds (Julie’s raft & Sarah’s pen) suffered from a slight bleed. Further, the print is also very clean, and the deep, dark blacks help give the image a rich texture and more than an acceptable level of shadow delineation.

Additionally, fine detail often extends well into the background of a given shot, close-ups look fantastic, and the minimal amount of film grain visible is never a distraction. Similarly, though there is a minute amount of edge enhancement visible, it never proved to be a distraction, and I suspect that with everything else going on in this picture, most people will never notice it. All in all, this is a very good effort by the folks at Universal, and aside from the two very minor issues I mentioned above, there really is not much else to complain about.




WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
Since Swimming Pool is a largely dialogue driven film, the DTS 5.1 channel audio track (Dolby Digital is also available) is not terribly boisterous, but it reproduces the source material rather well. For instance, dialogue is accurately recreated, without hissing, sibilance, or other distractions, which gives Charlotte Rampling’s rich, throaty voice and Ludivine Sagnier’s luscious French accent the proper care they deserve.

As you might have expected, the rear and .1 channels see precious little action, but the front soundstage is wide and airy, and the high frequencies are rendered delicately, allowing the ethereal, piano-laden score plenty of room to breathe. Again, this track is not spectacular, but you cannot ask for too much more, when the source material is taken into consideration.

NOTE: A French 5.1 channel Dolby Digital track is also available. For all of my fellow Spanish speakers…sorry, but if you don’t speak English, you’ll have to stick to subtitles.




EXTRAS, EXTRAS!!!


Deleted Scenes
There are a total of four deleted scenes, all of which are extremely slow moving, with shots of Sarah walking around, visiting landmarks, writing, and so forth. In my opinion, these scenes were wisely trimmed, for not only would they have made this movie seem overwhelmingly long, but they also fail to add anything substantial to the final cut.


Theatrical Trailer
The theatrical trailer for Swimming Pool is included.



SCORE CARD

(on a five-point scale)
Movie: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image
Video: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image
Audio: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image
Extras: Posted Image Posted Image
Overall: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image



THE LAST WORD
Speaking strictly to Universal’s presentation of Focus Features’ Swimming Pool, the transfer is good enough to allow the viewer to concentrate on the action as it (slowly) unfolds, and the encoded audio not only sounds good for what it is, but it is available in both Dolby Digital and DTS. Although the DTS track really doesn’t make much difference in the case of this film, its inclusion should please DTS zealots like myself. : ) As for extras, there are only 4 rather forgettable deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer available. On the whole, this is a by-the-numbers presentation by Universal, in that no one element is extraordinary, but the disc is certainly not completely deficient in any area either.

As you might have guessed from my comments on the film, I liked this movie quite a bit overall, and suspect that most people will as well. That being said, Swimming Pool is very “stylishly directed”, and its slow, deliberate pace might make it difficult for some viewers to remain interested (even if they approve of the ample nudity Posted Image ). Indeed, some of the camera moves are almost painfully slow, and after a while the repeated shots of Sagnier getting in and out of the pool (as nice as they are), or Rampling’s character spying on her, became a bit tedious.

Still, if you are the type that appreciates slow-burning suspense and artful character development, and can deal with slow-paced, brooding films, Swimming Pool would likely make a good rental (at least), although I would probably discourage a blind purchase unless you are really into films of this type, or are just looking to stretch your cinematic horizons.


Stay tuned…



Release Date:
January 13th, 2004
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#2 of 31 OFFLINE   Matt_P

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Posted January 10 2004 - 02:50 AM

Thanks for the comprehensive review. I missed this in the theater, and have been wanting to see it (for a variety of reasons Posted Image ).

Seriously, I hear it's a solid film that is worth seeing. Some friends of mine that have seen it spoke very highly of it.

#3 of 31 OFFLINE   Matt Butler

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Posted January 10 2004 - 05:00 AM

Ive been wanting to see this. I have it in my Netflix queue.
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#4 of 31 OFFLINE   Joseph J.D

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Posted January 10 2004 - 01:01 PM

Hmph! Universal doesn't put DTS tracks on films that require them like Hulk or Mummy Returns....yet they put it in for this title.....

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What the hell is Universal thinking?

Other than that complaint, it sounds like a good movie to rent.
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#5 of 31 OFFLINE   Jalil

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Posted January 10 2004 - 02:08 PM

I liked this movie in the theaters.. will be getting it on dvd..unrated is goood.. :0
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#6 of 31 OFFLINE   ChrisBEA

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Posted January 10 2004 - 03:35 PM

This was a beautiful movie.
I was fortunate enough to catch this in the theater.
Excellent review of an excellent movie, I will be getting this!Posted Image

#7 of 31 OFFLINE   Tom Tsai

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Posted January 10 2004 - 05:43 PM

Does anyone know if the Seville version is the Rated or the Unrated one?

http://www.dvdsoon.c....85&quality=0.8

#8 of 31 OFFLINE   JonZ

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Posted January 11 2004 - 02:17 AM

Was able to catch it in the theaters.

Id like to see it again, so Ill pick it up.

#9 of 31 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx

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Posted January 11 2004 - 06:24 AM

I saw this in the theaters as well.

Very ambiguis ending though

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#10 of 31 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted January 11 2004 - 06:33 AM

Quote:
Very ambiguis ending though

Complicated, perhaps, but not so ambiguous if you pay attention to all the details.

My explication of Swimming Pool -- WARNING! major spoilers!!

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#11 of 31 OFFLINE   Matt Pelham

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Posted January 11 2004 - 07:24 AM

Just in case anyone is wondering, Blockbuster video WILL be carrying the UNRATED version if you wanted to give it a rent.

#12 of 31 OFFLINE   Rob Willey

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Posted January 12 2004 - 09:02 AM

Got this one over the weekend and the transfer is a major step up from the print I saw in the theater last summer. Fine presentation of a very good movie.

Recommended.

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#13 of 31 OFFLINE   ChrisBEA

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Posted January 12 2004 - 09:15 AM

Quote:
Got this one over the weekend and the transfer is a major step up from the print I saw in the theater last summer. Fine presentation of a very good movie.


Glad to hear (read?) it! It's always nice to see foreign cinema (English language or not) get a nice DVD treatment. All too often we get stuck with lousy transfers and inflated prices. Pricing I can usually deal with if the transfer is good....

#14 of 31 OFFLINE   Marc_Savoie

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Posted January 12 2004 - 10:28 AM

Quote:
Does anyone know if the Seville version is the Rated or the Unrated one?

Same question here.

Loved it in theatres... will be buying the DVD.
Thanks for the review!
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#15 of 31 OFFLINE   CraigF

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Posted January 12 2004 - 12:26 PM

I'd like to know about the Seville version too, but it's so hard to find out about "Canadian" DVD releases before they're released. I ordered the U.S. unrated version since it was cheaper, and I knew what was on it... The thing that turned me away from the Seville release, though I know nothing about it (nicer cover IMO!), is that the movie was released by a French studio, and lately all Canadian DVD releases of French films have had inferior PQ due to PAL conversion issues. Actually, I'd say all Canadian DVD releases of non-U.S. films have some issues IMO.

#16 of 31 OFFLINE   PaulEB

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Posted January 13 2004 - 06:39 AM

Jason,

Nice review. I did find the startup of the DVD very annoying.

Let me start off by saying this is a great movie, I loved it. I was fortunate enough to see it presented on the big screen at our local Landmark Theatre which specializes in the art house type of movie if this can be called that. Focus Features was also responsible for Lost in Translation as well. I just picked up the movie and was immediately ticked off by the way the disc starts up.

The disc begins with short snippets of some of Focus Features movies such as Swimming Pool, Lost in Translation and 21 Grams. It then shows the previews of 21 Grams, Sylvia and Lacuna Inc. This all lasts over 7 minutes. The only way to get through this is to fast forward through it. You cannot use the menu key or Skip. I found this very frustrating. Seeing these once is nice but every time you play the movie?

As for the deleted scenes, you are taken directly into the deleted scenes without any explanation. There are no commentaries with the deleted scenes nor are there any titles describing the scenes. All told there are 4 deleted scenes totaling 12 minutes and 21 seconds that run one after the other.

I recall watching this at movies in English with English subtitles popping up only when some French was spoken. This does not appear to be the case with the DVD; the subtitles must remain on throughout the movie.

#17 of 31 OFFLINE   Karl F

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Posted January 13 2004 - 11:42 AM

"As for the deleted scenes, you are taken directly into the deleted scenes without any explanation."

You mean, they start playing automatically after the movie? 'Cause that didn't happen with mine; after the movie was over, it went to the "bonus features" menu.

"I recall watching this at movies in English with English subtitles popping up only when some French was spoken. This does not appear to be the case with the DVD; the subtitles must remain on throughout the movie."

Again, not the case with mine. Subtitles only showed up when French was spoken.

--K

#18 of 31 OFFLINE   PaulEB

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Posted January 13 2004 - 12:22 PM

"You mean, they start playing automatically after the movie? 'Cause that didn't happen with mine; after the movie was over, it went to the "bonus features" menu."

No Karl, when you press the menu selection entitled deleted scenes you are taken directly into the deleted scenes without any explanation. I wonder why after the end of the movie it would take you to the bonus features? Most DVDs that I have go back to the main menu.

"Again, not the case with mine. Subtitles only showed up when French was spoken."

Could be a player issue. What subtitles where you watching, English, French or Spanish?

Jason:
"NOTE: I did not see this in a theater, so I cannot say for sure what the Unrated edition contains that the R-rated cut does not, but there is nothing too extreme in this film, unless you find full frontal nudity objectionable."

There is a bit more than full frontal nudity. I recall a sex scene on the couch that could be considered extreme to some.

#19 of 31 OFFLINE   Dave Mack

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Posted January 13 2004 - 03:33 PM

Are the subtitles burned in or "GULP", player generated? My JVC player has the subtitle bug. Watching RONIN is an exercise in annoyance.... Once the subs pop on, they stay on, and you have to manually switch them off...

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#20 of 31 OFFLINE   Karl F

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Posted January 16 2004 - 06:08 PM

Paul --

"No Karl, when you press the menu selection entitled deleted scenes you are taken directly into the deleted scenes without any explanation."

Ah, I get it. I almost never look at deleted scenes so I didn't notice this.

"I wonder why after the end of the movie it would take you to the bonus features? Most DVDs that I have go back to the main menu."

Yeah, I wondered the same.

"Could be a player issue. What subtitles where you watching, English, French or Spanish?"

I watched with English subtitles. I went into the subtitle menu and turned them on before I started watching, IIRC, so maybe it dafaults to something else.

--K