SWIMMING POOL directed by François Ozon, written by Ozon and Emmanuèlle Bernheim, produced by Olivier Delbosc and Marc Messonnier, with Charlotte Rampling, Ludivine Sagnier and Charles Dance. 102 minutes. A Fidélité/Canal+ production. A Seville release. Opens Friday (July 11). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 65. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Cannes - François likes to do it outside. That's what the publicist says as she gestures toward the balcony of François Ozon's suite, which may not be the best in Cannes, but it's sizable and has a table, so we wander out. Ozon has failed to take into account the Mistral, which has chosen today to make its presence felt along the Croisette.
The Mistral is a cool, hard wind that shows up on perfect days with ice-blue skies, sending 30-mph winds rocketing around the streets of the Riviera, stretching all the flags and pennants to pure horizontal and sending all the trash scudding in the general direction of the Casino Palm Beach.
It's not that bad, unless your interview subject expects you to sit outside, hold the pages of your notebook against the wind and squint against the random bits of grit that get in your eyes.
Ozon is delayed (in Cannes if you show up for anything other than a screening, you will wait), which gives the several journalists here time to stage a small rebellion and move everything inside, grouping chairs around a couch.
The current young superstar of French directors, Ozon has made six features since his directorial debut with 1998's Sitcom. Swimming Pool, which screened in the Competition and opens in Toronto on Friday, is the sixth, and his seventh, 5x2, has just been completed.
While it's not a pace to make Fassbinder or Godard blink, it certainly gives the lie to the contemporary directorial mantra that it takes two years to make a movie.
Ozon arrives at last, translator in tow, in a fresh blue shirt - the cuffs almost crackle with starch - and turns on the bilingual charm.
Aside from his movie-star looks, you can see why he's so effective with actors, juggling, for example, the eight star egos involved in his hit 8 Women.
He speaks heavily accented English but makes his points, noting that Swimming Pool, with only two stars (Charlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier), was much easier than 8 Women, and had no musical numbers to mount.
"There were only two egos to deal with. It's not that the stars of 8 Femmes were particularly demanding - it was just difficult to deal with all of them at once."
In Swimming Pool, Rampling plays an apparently prim English mystery novelist in the Ruth Rendell mode who borrows her publisher's French country house to write, only to have his half-French daughter (Sagnier) show up and disrupt her routine by being noisy, eruptive and prone to bringing strange men home at all hours. It's an existential mystery of sorts, with a lot of sex.
"After Under The Sand, Charlotte trusted me on the nudity. She looks good, and we discussed it."
Those who only remember Sagnier as the tomboyish daughter in 8 Women may not recognize her as Swimming Pool's knockout poster image.
"With Ludivine," says Ozon, "all she asked was that I pay for her trainer."
A journalist from Spain asks the tasteless question - the one about sleeping with one's stars. Ozon doesn't mention that he's gay and offers an intriguing answer.
"I find that when you're working with great actresses, they give you so much while you're working that it's better than sex. It's more than you'd get from them by sleeping with them. I almost never have sex while shooting a film. It seems," - he turns to his translator for le mot juste - "irrelevant."
"Well, after it is different," and he gives us one of those Gallic shrugs that no one but a Frenchman can bring off.