Take a dip in the "Swimming Pool"


Actress Ludivine Sagnier shined in the previously reviewed "Love Crime", but her breakout role came in the 2003 film "Swimming Pool".  This time she is paired with the impeccable English actress Charlotte Rampling, whose long career has also spiked with this role.  Sagnier's raw sexuality and self-confidence set this film on fire.  Not to mention the much older Rampling who also gives a shockingly brazen performance.

The story revolves around Rampling's character of Sarah Morton a best selling author of crime fiction novels.  Based in London and fighting a loss of inspiration for her new novel her publisher suggests staying at his French villa to relax and recharge.  She accepts and in short time finds the peaceful serenity of the Mediterranean to be as relaxing as it sounds.  Being a writer Sarah prefers to be on her own and welcomes the quiet and sleepy surroundings.  She is very conservative and quite British.  She does call her publisher back in London and asks when he will join her but he keeps brushing her aside.  She visits the local cafe on numerous occasions and chats up the mustached waiter Franck who comes into play later on.

Sarah's peacefulness is shattered with the introduction of Julie (Sagnier), the publisher's daughter who arrives to crash for a few weeks.  Julie is young, impulsive and very in touch with her sexuality.  They are exact opposites and are usually at odds with each other, but Sarah also finds her quite intriguing.  Is she jealous? probably.  Does she see a story there? Definitely.  Julie brings home a different guy each night, and the sounds of them gettin' busy awakens something in Sarah.  She snoops around Julie's things and finds a diary, which she starts to spin into literary gold.  She then asks her to dinner to get some more details.  While Julie is skeptical of her kindness she eventually becomes wise to her plan.

Then there's the swimming pool.  When Sarah arrives the pool is covered and unloved.  It is only when Julie arrives that it starts to heat up.  It seems that when the pool comes to life so does Sarah.  Julie spends most of her day lounging around the pool and sometimes wearing a bikini.  When Julie brings Franck home one night they drink, smoke and dance.  After Sarah goes to her room for the night she can't help but watch them as they go for a swim, she interrupts their interlude then goes to bed.  The next morning Franck is gone and there is blood by the pool.  Julie has a sort of breakdown as she thinks she killed him.  She regains her composure and Sarah starts to help her get away with it.

"Swimming Pool" has one of those endings that results in good discussions afterward. You end up rethinking all of what you have just seen.  Make sure to seek out the unrated version to get the full experience.  The film contains copious amounts of sex and nudity and would be teen boys holy grail, but really it's more than just a skin flick.  It's French for cryin' out loud.  The R-rated version is available on Netflix watch instantly.

Get Educated with "Student Services"


"Student Service" or "Mes Cheres Etudes" is the 2010 film that sheds light on a modern epidemic afflicting thousands and thousands of French college students. Skyrocketing costs of higher education and living expenses have forced many bright young students into selling their bodies to make ends meet. This is the true story of one such girl who wrote a book under the name Laura D.

Directed by Emmanuelle Bercot and starring the mesmerizing and talented Deborah Francois who plays the girl named Laura. Even while living with a roommate/boyfriend and working as a telemarketer Laura is unable to maintain the very basic needs of life. She starts to peruse a French version of Craig's List and finds quite a few guys looking to pay for "companionship". The first guy she meets is Joe an older man who pays her 100 Euros an hour. Laura is obviously shy and nervous and can't believe she has fallen to this level. These scenes are not made out to be sexy as we take Laura's point of view and are as nervous and insecure as she is. Joe seems to be your average guy, but you know he is just as disgusting and revolting as you think he is.

She starts to build up a sort of client base of photographers, fetishists, and perverts while the psychological strain starts to take its toll. She leaves her boyfriend and quickly finds a replacement in Benjamin, who is not one of her clients. Laura is betrayed by Joe who goes too far at one of their hotel encounters. While Benjamin is aware of what Laura does it's only a matter of time before the jealousy becomes too great. It becomes a sort of bizarre love triangle between the three. Joe's continues to offer her more money for more dangerous work and after another brutal betrayal, Laura hits bottom. The ending seems to be a little tacked on because it happens so fast. She moves to Paris and finds this great job as a waitress and has an almost instant loving family of co-workers. She passes all of her exams at school and starts to live her life like nothing happened. A swift happy ending but is it really?

The filmmakers make the sex scenes as unsexy and unsettling as possible, not using any music and drenching it in nervous energy. Deborah Francois really inhabits Laura and holds nothing back as a girl willing to do anything to get what she wants. She also co-starred in the Cannes Film Festival Palm d'Or winning film "L'Enfant (The Child)" in 2005. "Student Services" is available to watch on Netflix watch instantly.  The trailer below is really cheesy and does a great disservice to the actual movie.

Zack Snyder's "Sucker Punch"


"Sucker Punch" is the highly stylized feast for the eyes that is director Zack Snyder's trademark.  Starting after his breakout 2004 remake of "Dawn of the Dead" his movies are massive in scale and budget as well as stretching the boundaries of what CGI can do.  "300", "Watchmen" and "Sucker Punch" are all perfect examples of this.  Normally the gratuitous use of CGI and heavily processed imagery is something I try to avoid at all costs.  But for some reason, I can't help it when he comes out with a new film, especially with "Sucker Punch".  Yeah, I'm a sucker and deserve to be punched.

Nothing more than a guilty pleasure and junk food for the brain. "Sucker Punch" stars one of my personal favorite actresses in Emily Browning (The Uninvited, Sleeping Beauty) as Baby Doll a girl who is sent to a Mental Institution by her stepfather.  Five days before getting a lobotomy, her mind escapes to a sort of fantasy world brothel where she meets a group of other such girls.  She joins Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) her sister Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung) who all wish to be free.  The girls need five items in order to escape.  A map, fire (a lighter), a knife, a key, and a mystery object.  The plot is kind of cheesy and stupid, but it's really deeper than it looks.  Chockfull of symbolism and alternate meanings that multiple viewings are encouraged.

Every time Baby Doll dances we go deeper into another fantastical universe where the girls need to fight to obtain one the five items.  Each world they go into has its own unique theme from Feudal Warriors and The Trenches to Dragons and Distant Planets.  Obviously, the heavy fantasy element caters perfectly to Snyder's talents as a visual filmmaker.  He tries for a Matrix level of coolness an makes a decent effort, but its hard to aim for coolness as it often comes off as pandering and cliché.

This movie really is a teenage boy's wet dream with hot girls, big guns, crazy action, and enough CGI to choke a horse.  I don't know what that says about me but we all need our guilty pleasures.  The Blu-ray edition contains an extended cut of the film adding on an additional 17 minutes.  So all of you geeks and dorks out there check it out if you haven't already.

The 2010 French Thriller "Love Crime"


A brilliantly acted modern French thriller is one way of describing director Alain Corneau's latest film "Love Crime (Crime D'amour)".  Starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier as executive and assistant at a big corporate conglomerate.  Scott Thomas plays the brutally ruthless and manipulative Christine, while Sagnier is Isabelle the young and beautiful assistant. (aka fresh meat).

Christine has Isabelle take her place on a business trip to Cairo along with the attractive Phillipe.  Before long they're having torrid affair, but when Phillipe breaks it off and  Christine takes credit for all of Isabelle's work, the cat and mouse game of revenge begins.  The story and plot are heavily structured and things have to happen as it's written to make everything else happen.  I'm not all that familiar with the French legal system, but there are a few instances when something has to happen for the story to move forward and it doesn't matter how improbable it seems.

When Christine publicly humiliates Isabelle in front of all of the executives at a party, this is the last straw and Isabelle plans an executes an even more brutal plan.  After another get together at Christine's house, Isabelle dressed in a white overall stabs her to death but leaves clues to implicate herself.  At first viewing, this seems kind of odd but it's all apart of her elaborate plan.

The evidence is seemingly overwhelming and Isabelle is sent to prison.  With the help of her sister and friendly co-worker Daniel, Isabelle puts the other half of her plan into motion.  The acting by these two women really pushes this film to more than just your average thriller. 

To put it in Hollywood terms its  "The Devil Wears Prada" meets "The Perfect Murder".  Eventually, everything happens as it should and her masterful plan is complete.  The road up the corporate latter is pretty brutal and leaves its share of victims along the way both literally and figuratively.  Whoever wants it more and is willing to sell out their very soul will become richer and that more powerful.  "Love Crime" is currently available on Netflix watch instantly. 

RR's Best of 2011

The Rockport Review Top 5 of 2011

"Super 8"



"Bill Cunningham New York"

"A Dangerous Method"

Honorable Mentions

Best Horror Movie - "Insidious"

WTF Movie of '11 - "Rubber"

Foreign Film - "13 Assassins"

2011's Break Out Stars

Male - Michael Fassbender

Female - Elle Fanning