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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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13 Urban Guerilla Playfare, or Skating through Empty Cinematic Pools in Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001)

To view the empty swimming pools of 1970s Los Angeles in the film Dogtown and Z-Boys (Stacy Peralta, 2001) is to take part in a unique reconfiguration of urban space. This essay attempts to examine how the empty swimming pools of 1970s Los Angeles are viewed on film – in relationship to the appropriation of McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn, New York during the 2000s – and strives to situate the swimming pool as a unique urban and cinematic space. The essay proposes to examine the pools in the film as a space within the space of the cinema. In turn, the cinema lies within the city, which is also a unique space, and which contains the pools that are filmed (and watched) in the cinemas of those cities. This essay considers the implications of such a spatial relationship when viewing Dogtown and Z-Boys. In doing so, the essay suggests that the viewing of cinematic swimming pools in Dogtown and Z-Boys acts as a prototype for the acquisition, repurposing and alterations of urban space – or urban guerilla ‘playfare’ – that cinema in general offers the viewer.

The massive concrete playground alluded to in the film’s epigraph, which reads, ‘two hundred years of American technology has unwittingly created a massive cement playground of unlimited potential (Craig Stecyk, 1975)’ is mostly composed of empty swimming pools, whose open, inviting fixtures proved fertile playgrounds...

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