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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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10 Filming the Splash: David Hockney’s Swimming Pools on Film

In 1964, shortly after his first solo exhibition at John Kasmin Gallery, David Hockney relocated to the United States. He moved first to New York and then to Los Angeles, where he started a series of paintings that represented a typically Californian theme, a swimming pool. He continued to paint this subject over the following decades, constantly reinterpreting it in different media and forms. In this essay, I will focus on the paintings of swimming pools that were created between 1964 and 1972 in Los Angeles and Southern France, and examine three films that represent very different cases of intermedial transcriptions of this work into cinema.

Californian scenery fascinated Hockney long before his first visit: ‘California in my mind was a sunny land of movie studios and beautiful semi-naked people’.1 His idea of the American Dream was strongly influenced by Bob Mizer’s beefcake photographs from the Physique Pictorial magazine. In the early 1960s Hockney began using images of nude or semi-naked men as a source of inspiration for his works. One of the best examples of Mizer’s influence is the 1963 painting that represents two men in a shower entitled Domestic Scene – Los Angeles. The picture was conceived before he moved to California and was based on a picture from Mizer’s magazine.

The magazine was published by Athletic Model Guild, a film studio funded by the photographer in 1945, announced as a...

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