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The Cinema of the Swimming Pool

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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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ROSE HEPWORTH

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9 Staging Embarrassment in The Last Picture Show (1971) and Morvern Callar (2002)

This chapter examines embarrassment in film, specifically as it is experienced by young women in relation to states of dress and undress in a swimming pool setting. It looks at the mechanics of the emotion, and considers the role of the public gaze in embarrassment. The second half of the chapter employs this thinking in the analysis of two ‘case study’ swimming pool scenes. In each, the female body is exposed or partially revealed in a sexualized environment. The potential or actual embarrassment experienced in each scene is a result of the public gaze, an element that transforms the subject of the experience into the object of spectacle.

Embarrassment studies scholars appear to agree that embarrassment is primarily a public phenomenon.1 Rowland S. Miller, who has conducted several key studies in embarrassment, reports that there are very few instances of people reporting having felt embarrassed when they are alone, without real or perceived spectators.2 Rom Harré describes embarrassment as ‘an emotion characteristic of situations in which personal conduct becomes an object of a public consideration and judgment of which the actor is either aware or believes himself or herself to be aware’.3 Robert J. Edelman writes that, following embarrassing events, people feel ← 133 | 134 → ‘exposed, like the center of attention, and worried about what others were thinking’.4

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