Movies »The Swimmer

directed by Frank Perry (1968)

The Swimmer was filmed in 1966 and released two years later. In between then, The Graduate with its young, new, daring take on similar subject matter and inventive film techniques, made an indelible mark American film making.

Meanwhile this Burt Lancaster vehicle fell into, well, if not oblivion exactly, certainly near to that. Compared to where movie making was headed, The Swimmer, based on a short story by John Cheever (he of the big red book of short stories, which is first on my list to start reading on vacation) is a tad dated and seems, from it’s reviews of the time, to have already felt off kilter (in both a good and bad way) when it was released.

The acting can range from balls out fist shaking to unnatural, stilted theater like script reading. A melodramatic, score that underlines every emotional cue adds to the artificial feeling. Added in are some unusual editing gorgeous lens flare and arty film techniques, including double exposures –  but somehow the collected oddities work in harmony in the film’s favor. A very dark, hallucinatory, and paranoid piece of work emerges from the flaws.

This is a surreal and haunting movie and, for all its artifice and ham-handedness, there’s strong stuff here that sticks with you; I first saw the movie years ago and have never really forgotten it and I welcomed a chance to revisit it when it became available on Netflix on demand (one of life’s great pleasures).

Lancaster struts around as a suburban peacock who decides to swim home via neighborhood pools. Along the way we encounter the hung over, the angry, the bitchy, and the eccentric members of his community as well as witness some nudists, a fight over a hot dog cart, and a cameo by Joan Rivers.

It’s a fun movie to discover if you’ve not seen it, maybe especially for it’s lost gem quality and of course, the sixties suburban pool side styles of the time that will satiate any Mad Men fan.

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Posted on June 27, 2010

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1 Comment

  • From shle896 on June 27, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    I love that Joan Rivers has a cameo in this film! She ROCKED it then AND now! She’s the best!