Nearly a decade after Alain Delon’s character – triggered by fragile insecurity, repressed envy and spurned ego – took Maurice Ronet’s character to his watery grave in the dazzling thriller Plein Soleil, he did it again for similar underlying reasons in La Piscine. Sultry, sensuous and gloriously sun-drenched on one hand, while menacing, ominous and disquieting on the other – accentuated by rippling undercurrents of sexual tension and fervid jealousy – Jacques Deray’s luscious, languid, hypnotic, slow-burn smash hit served as the perfect companion piece to the earlier film. It also witnessed the ravishing pairing of former lovers Delon and Romy Schneider; she was roped in upon Delon’s insistence after Jeanne Moreau had turned down the role. Failed writer, recovering alcoholic and ad-man Jean-Paul (Delon), and his entrancing girlfriend Marianne (Schneider) with whom he’s in a passionate fling, are enjoying a lazy, carefree and steamy summer vacation at a luxurious Saint-Tropez villa in Côte d'Azur – basking in the sun, swimming in the open-air pool under the resplendent sky, and with the Mediterranean Sea discernible in the background – when their idyllic isolation is shattered by the sudden arrival of Marianne’s former boyfriend Harry (Ronet), a successful and insouciant music producer who’s still enamoured by her, along with his coy teenage daughter Pénélope (Jane Birkin). Marianne’s free chemistry with Harry, who’s an old buddy of Jean-Paul’s, provokes intense anxiety and turmoil under the latter’s disconcertingly placid demeanour, which in turn propels him towards seducing the wide-eyed teenager. This superbly performed ménage à quatre inevitably leads the increasingly tense narrative – photographed in lush visuals, with the camera often gazing at the roguishly attractive bourgeois characters, and accompanied by Michel Legrand’s jazz score – to a sinister finale.
Director: Jacques Deray
Genre: Thriller/Crime Thriller/Marital Thriller/Neo-Noir