After early Truffaut I have moved onto another French director Francois Ozon who typifies why I like French films so much.
I downloaded from Amazon Prime two of his films, Swimming Pool (2003) and 8 Femmes (2002).
The story of the Swimming Pool is of successful crime writer Sarah Morton.
It begins with a tube journey in London where an elderly woman is reading a Sarah Morton thriller.
She recognises Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling) in the carriage opposite her but the writer denies her identity.
We get the first indication that she is an uptight sociopath.
She is seeing her publisher John (Charles Dance) who introduces her to a young novelist whose mother is a big Morton fan.
There is more than a hint that their relationship extends beyond the professional but nothing is overt. It’s left for the viewer to decide.
Sarah goes to the beautiful villa but her idyll and writing discipline is undermined by the presence of young Julie (Ludivine Sagmier), the illegitimate daughter of John, who also lives in the house.
At first their relationship is stretched. Julie brings back a different lover every night and makes love noisily with him. She is also no respecter of privacy.
But gradually there is a thawing. The film hints of a sexual attraction but develops more into Sarah reassessing her sexuality with men.
Contrasts are at the heart of this film: grimy cold London versus hot sensual Provence. Repressed Sarah versus nubile free spirited Julie.
For those who complain that nothing much happens in a French film there is a murder.
We are also never quite sure what Sarah is writing.
She seems inspired by Julie who presents her with a novel her mother wrote. Sarah returns to London with her draft. She meets John but there is a final twist of identity.
As with many French films you as viewer have the final decision and this is their charm and attraction.
Ludivine Sagnier also starred in Ozon’s 8 Femmes.
This begins with the death of Marcel the patriarch of the family. His wife is played by vintage French actress Danielle Darrieux, his two daughters Gaby and Augustine (played by Catherine Deneuve and Isabelle Huppert) and his granddaughters (played by Virginie Ledoyen and Ludivine Sagnier).
The assemblage of French film talent is completed by Fanny Ardant as Marcel’s sister and Emmanuelle Beart as the maid.
When you have such an array of talent the final product can be unsatisfying as it is here.
This is exacerbated by parts of the film being an attempt at comedy and – rather incongruously for a murder – there are musical numbers.
The film must have been a play as all the action is set in the house. There is a twist and much unravelling but the film lacks the subtlety and nuance of the Swimming Pool
In particular Charlotte Rampling demonstrates what a fine actress she is.
Ludivine Sagbier does well in a different type of role but it’s the two not eight.
In 8 Femmes you feel the competitiveness of the cast in which Isabelle Huppert gives the best performance as the neurotic Augustine.