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The Cinema of the Swimming Pool

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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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EMMA WILSON

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15 ‘The sea nymphs tested this miracle’: Water Lilies (2007) and the Origin of Coral

I.

In September 2012, Cahiers du Cinéma devoted its issue to the question of women filmmakers. This followed the same summer’s Cannes film festival where there were no films by women directors in competition. A voice that stands out in their debate belongs to French director, Céline Sciamma. She studied screenwriting at the Paris film school La Fémis; Sciamma has made two feature films to date, her swimming pool film Water Lilies (2007), Tomboy (2011), also a beautiful short film against homophobia Pauline (2010). Water Lilies was shown in the ‘Un Certain Regard’ selection at Cannes in 2007 and later won the Louis Delluc award for a first film. Tomboy was shown at Berlin in 2011. For Sciamma, women’s cinema is not an issue of aesthetics, but of politics.1 For her there is no female gaze or gesture in filmmaking; the question is rather one of point of view. She notes that at Cannes there were very few younger filmmakers with films in competition in 2012 as well. She argues that it is important politically for Cannes to be open to younger filmmakers as well as to women.2

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