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The Cinema of the Swimming Pool


Edited By Christopher Brown and Pam Hirsch

The swimming pool frequently appears in film not merely as a setting but as a dynamic site where social, political, cultural and aesthetic forces converge. What is it about this space that has so fascinated filmmakers and what kinds of cinematic investigations does it encourage? This collection features essays by an eclectic, international range of film researchers. Amongst the works analysed are classics such as The Cameraman (1928), The Philadelphia Story (1940) and La Piscine (1969); cult hits such as The Swimmer (1968) and Deep End (1970); and more recent representations of the pool in Water Lilies (2007), Sea Point Days (2009) and Ausente (2011). The pool is considered as a realm where artifice meets nature, where public meets private, where sexualities morph and blend; and as a space that reconfigures the relationship between architecture and narrative, in which themes of pollution, spectacle and reflexivity find unique expression. Approaching the swimming pool from a wide range of methodological perspectives, the essays in this collection stake a claim for the enduring significance of this exciting cinematic space.
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8 A Dangerous Age: Deep End (1970)

Mitchell S. Cohen commented that the film Deep End, directed by Jerzy Skolimowski, ‘never found its audience, and an unusual, complex motion picture deserving of support and detailed critical attention has for the most part gone unrecognized’.1 Although acclaimed at the Venice Film Festival in 1970, it suffered from inadequate distribution in Britain, never breaking out of the art-house ghetto. Arguably, the film’s mixture of ‘poetry and black farce’ meant that contemporary audiences did not know what to make of it, and it disappeared from view.2 David Thomson was delighted when, in 2011, Deep End was restored by the British Film Institute, describing it as ‘an honourably adolescent film’, by which he meant that the film had captured the raw and obsessive nature of adolescent desire.3 This is indicated from the first moment, with the choice of Cat Stevens’ song, ‘But I Might Die Tonight’, first heard during the title credits and then re-emerging intermittently throughout the film.4 In so far as adolescence is a time of liminality between childhood and adulthood, the swimming pool, too, could be described as a liminal space. To quote D. B. Massey, identities of place ‘are constructed not by placing boundaries around it and defining its identity through counterposition to the other which lies beyond, ← 121 | 122 → but precisely … through the mix of links and interconnections to that “beyond”. Places viewed in this way are open and porous’.5

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