For the past 14 weeks the Film Forum has been playing the long-running Independent and Repertory Theater on West Houston Street in Manhattan, 1969 French film La Pissin – whose initial engagement was extended by 12 weeks and counted.
Rear window, 8 1/2, La Strada and a prominent Humphrey Bogart The series featuring Casablanca has all come and gone, but La Pissin swims.
If there’s a movie in New York’s 2021 summer, it might be this one.
La Piscin (ie The Swimming Pool) revolves around Jean-Paul (played by Alain Dylan) and Marianne (Romy Schneider) who return to their home with a large pool outside Saint Tropez.
Sadly, he only gets one month off. The lovers are exceptionally joined by Harry (Maurice Ronnett), Marion’s ex-boyfriend and Jean-Paul’s ex-best friend and his 18-year-old daughter Penelope (Jane Birkin). Too much decline and most French crossover love occurs.
Of course, life at the pool is not what it seems. (If you’re someone who has strong opinions about spoiler warnings for 50-year-old French movies, skip the rest of this paragraph.) Tensions escalate and in the final half hour Jean-Paul murders Harry slowly, brutally, and drowning. After filming one of Chiner’s funeral scenes, Marin covers Jean-Paul with the police, although Jean-Paul declares his desire to leave her for Penelope.
Dash of sex, affluence, risk. Can you better describe the mood after the New York lockdown? And then there’s the legendary style: Come for Alain’s open-to-the-navy denim shirt, stay for the bathing suits designed by Romez Corzes. It has a lot of New Yorkers.
“It’s a total sleeper smash hit,” said Bruce Goldstein, director of the repertoire programming for the Film Forum and founder of Rialto Pictures, which distributes La Pissin in the US. With this we hit all the right nerves. “
Ah, yes, those nerves. After more than a year of epidemic sanctions, many people, including myself, are ready in large doses for extreme beauty. I have seen the two-hour movie four times since it came out in mid-May.
“It’s bizarre,” Goldstein said, trying to explain why the 50-year-old French film, starring big unknown actors in America, was so hit. “It’s a holiday in the south of France that most people don’t take for granted.
The film is classified as a psychological thriller, but for first-time viewers, very little happens until the end. “Can you believe there’s another hour in this?” I heard an old woman near the half mark startled her friend.
The stunning 2015 remake of Bigger Splash, starring Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton, is well known to Americans, handling a wide range of strokes of the plot, but, as the title suggests, it is quite splasher. In that version, drowning counts as a crime of accidental passion, away from the cold, the murder of La Pissin; Conversation is fast, cuts are sharp, music is loud.
Looking back now, I am well aware that due to the deep dive (ego) into the original, I have a lack of action, an unpredictable decline, that keeps pulling me back to the theater. This is not a movie that is interested in judging La Belle Wai.
Although I became more sensitive to the nuances of film dialogue (“the first swim really comes out of you,” says Marion, when Jean-Paul lost her virginity and returned from Penelope Beach), I became less and less interested in seeing beautiful people. “Tomorrow I’ll take a long siesta,” Marion said as she lay on the bed in her bathing suit a day later at the pool. Yes please.
An image in Gratuitas echoed in 2021, perhaps not entirely surprising. A year later New York City has suffered enormous damage and its inhabitants have lived heavily encircled lives, meaning we can take off our clothes and have a good time, looking to be on screen and off.
Perhaps, something is tempting without knowing the inner workings of anxiety. Like the never-before-seen “Hot Wax Summer”, it turned out there wasn’t another hour.
After Harry returns from the funeral, Jean-Paul, Marianne and Penelope stand on the edge of the pool. “I’ll clear the pool,” Jean-Paul said. “I will never swim in this pool again,” Marion said.
Undoubtedly, New York swims in many pools, but for now, when the dark days return, there is some comfort in doing so for two hours at a time.