It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
'She threw me a look I caught in my hip pocket," Robert Mitchum's private eye says of Charlotte Rampling's femme fatale in "Farewell, My Lovely" (1975). You don't know what that means, but you know exactly what it means. Rampling has always had the aura of a woman who knows things you would like to do that you haven't even thought of. She played boldly sexual roles early in her career, as in "The Night Porter" (1974), and now, in "Swimming Pool," a sensuous and deceptive new thriller, she becomes fascinated by a young female predator.
Rampling plays Sarah Morton, a British crime writer whose novels seem to exist somewhere between those of P.D. James and Ruth Rendell. Now she is tired and uncertain, and her publisher offers her a holiday in his French villa. She goes gratefully to the house, shops in the nearby village, finds she can write again. She is alone, except for a taciturn caretaker, who goes into the village at night to live with his daughter, a dwarf who seems older than he is.
Then an unexpected visitor turns up: Julie (Ludivine Sagnier), the daughter her publisher didn't think to tell her about. Sarah is annoyed. Her privacy has been violated. Her privacy, and her sense of decorum. Julie is gravid with self-confidence in her emerging sexuality, appears topless at the villa's swimming pool, brings home men to sleep with--men who have nothing in common, except Julie's willingness to accommodate them. Sarah is surprised, intrigued, disapproving, curious. She looks down from high windows, spying on the girl who seems so indifferent to her opinion. Eventually she even steals glimpses of the girl's diary.
There is a waiter in the town, named Franck (Jean-Marie Lamour), who Sarah has chatted with, and who is perhaps not unaware of her enduring sexuality. But he becomes one of Julie's conquests, too--maybe because Julie's senses the older woman's interest in him.