La Piscine (film)

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La Piscine
French film poster
Directed byJacques Deray
Written byJacques Deray
Jean-Claude Carrière
Alain Page [fr]
StarringAlain Delon
Romy Schneider
Maurice Ronet
Jane Birkin
CinematographyJean-Jacques Tarbès [fr]
Edited byPaul Cayatte [fr]
Music byMichel Legrand[1]
Distributed bySociété Nouvelle de Cinématographie

Variety Distribution

Embassy Pictures (US)
Release dates
  • 31 January 1969 (1969-01-31) (France)
  • 5 April 1969 (1969-04-05) (Italy)
Running time
124 minutes (French version)/114 minutes (English version)
LanguageFrench/English (two different versions made)
Box office3,010,464 admissions (France)[2][3]

La Piscine (The Swimming Pool)[4]is a 1969 psychological thriller film directed by Jacques Deray, starring Alain Delon, Romy Schneider, Maurice Ronet, and Jane Birkin.

Set in summertime on the Côte d'Azur, it is a drama of sexual jealousy and possessiveness. Both French and English-language versions of the film were made, with the actors filmed speaking English for the international release, which was unusual at a time when movies were always either dubbed or subtitled. The 114-minute international release, shorter than the French version, also had a slightly different editing.


Jean-Paul, a writer, and Marianne, his girlfriend of just over two years, are holidaying at a friend's villa near Saint-Tropez. There is a tension in their relationship which excites Marianne: the film begins with a scene in which they are together beside the villa's swimming pool and she urges him to scratch her back. He does as she asks, but then throws her into the pool and jumps in after her. In a later scene he takes a branch and uses it to lash her bare buttocks, playfully but with a force that increases as the scene cuts away.

Harry, an old friend and record producer who was Marianne's lover before Jean-Paul, arrives for a visit, surprising the couple by bringing along his 18-year-old daughter Penelope, whose existence they had not previously known about. Marianne, without asking Jean-Paul, invites Harry and Penelope to stay.

The four stay together and Harry draws Marianne back towards him as the days go by. Taunting Jean-Paul for having given up serious writing to work in advertising, Harry drinks a great deal and throws a surprise party while Jean-Paul, a recovering alcoholic, stays sober. Meanwhile, it becomes clear that Penelope neither likes nor respects her father, whom she has barely known while growing up. She and Jean-Paul become close and spend a day alone together by the sea.

That night, while the women are asleep, Harry drunkenly confronts Jean-Paul and accuses him of seducing Penelope to revenge his own shortcomings on his more successful friend. Trying to punch Jean-Paul, Harry falls into the pool and is too drunk to swim. Jean-Paul, who has also been drinking, at first stops him from climbing out of the water, then deliberately pushes Harry under and holds him down until he drowns. He covers up the crime by stripping Harry's clothes off and placing fresh trousers and a shirt at the poolside to make it look like an accident.

After the funeral, a policeman, Inspector Lévêque, visits the house more than once. He confides to Marianne his reasons for doubting the story of an accident, that Harry had been wearing his watch, which was expensive and not waterproof, and that there is no trace of sweat on the clothes he was supposed to have been wearing. When she tells Jean-Paul, he confesses everything to her, and she goes to see Harry's clothes, hidden in the cellar, that would have given him away. But when she does not take this evidence to the police, the inspector reluctantly suspends the inquiry.

Marianne takes Penelope to the airport and sees her off as she returns to her mother. When Penelope demands the truth about her father's death, Marianne assures her it really was an accident. She and Jean-Paul are then about to leave the villa when she tells him that they will not go together. She calls for a taxi but he places his hand on the telephone, cutting off her call and silencing her. In the end, neither leaves that day, and in the film's final shot they stand side by side looking out the window at the swimming pool, and then embrace.



The filming began August 19 and finished October 19, 1968.[5] French designer André Courrèges created many custom pieces for the film, such as the swimsuits worn by Schneider and Birkin.[6] It was the first of the nine films Delon and director Jacques Deray made together,[7] and the only one the star didn't produce. It also marked the onscreen reunion of Delon and Romy Schneider, his co-star in Christine (1958) as well as his off-stage romantic partner between 1958 and 1963.[8][9]

It was during the making of this film that the Marković affair broke out.[10] The body of Stevan Marković, Delon's bodyguard, was discovered in a public dump in the village of Élancourt, Yvelines, on October 1, 1968.


It was the fourth most popular movie at the French box office in 1969.[11]

The movie was released in the UK as The Sinners to limited box office response. It was released in Italy with twenty minutes cut out, but was a popular success.[12]

The Los Angeles Times called it a "handsome, stunningly designed film" which was at its best in "the deft way in which it coolly depicts how beautiful, chic people, dedicated to a sophisticate, amoral view of love, can be utterly defenseless against an onslaught of passion – a favorite Gallic theme."[13]The Guardian wrote: "Erotic languour turns gradually into fear and then horror in this gripping and superbly controlled psychological thriller" where "something in the very lineaments of the pool itself creates their own awful destiny: it is a primordial swamp of desire, a space in which there is nothing to do but laze around, furtively looking at semi-naked bodies."[14]

La Piscine was restored and re-released in theaters during the summer of 2021, becoming a surprise hit. Scheduled to run at the Film Forum in New York for two weeks, it ended up running for 18 weeks, causing Glynnis MacNicol of The New York Times to declare: "If there is a film of New York’s 2021 summer, this may be it."[15]However, the film was "dismissed as gossip-column fodder in its time."[16]Glenn Kenny of The New York Times commented, "Pretty people behaving poorly in beautiful settings is something we don’t see as much of in cinema as we used to. This is a master class in the subgenre, and one of unusual depth."[17]Writing for The New Yorker, critic Richard Brody was less than enthusiastic about the film's 2021 revival. He noted, "I paid it little attention, in the hope that, given its dry and flimsy mediocrity, it would just blow away into the oblivion whence it emerged." He went on to declare the film a "faux-hip empty shell of faux modernity."[18]

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 95% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 19 reviews, with an average rating of 7.40/10.[19]


An excerpt of the film was used in the Christian Dior Eau Sauvage cologne advertising campaign drawing on the legacy of Alain Delon.[20]

Alain Delon said in an interview that because his ex-lover Romy Schneider and good friend Maurice Ronet both died prematurely and under tragic circumstances, revisiting the film is simply too painful for him.[21]


The 2016 film A Bigger Splash, directed by Luca Guadagnino and starring Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Dakota Johnson, is loosely based on La Piscine.[22]


  1. ^ "The Rest of Michel Legrand's Feather". Los Angeles Times. 15 March 1970. p. 46.
  2. ^ "La piscine". Box Office Story. Archived from the original on 19 September 2014.
  3. ^ "La Piscine (2021 re-release)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  4. ^ Bessy, Maurice [in French]; Chirat, Raymond [in French]; Bernard, André [in French] (eds.). Histoire du Cinéma Français 1966–1970. ISBN 9782857043799.
  5. ^ "La Piscine – Fiche Film – La Cinémathèque française". Retrieved 22 October 2019.
  6. ^ "Lessons We Can Learn From La Piscine". AnOther. 22 July 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2019.
  7. ^ Bergan, Ronald (28 August 2003). "Obituary: Jacques Deray". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 1 November 2019.
  8. ^ Nehme, Farran Smith (11 May 2021). "Sun-Kissed Tension: On the Staying Power of Deray's La Piscine". Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  9. ^ Tchernia, Pierre, ed. (1989). 80 grands succès du cinéma policier français. Paris: Casterman. p. 72. ISBN 2203298081. OCLC 21614392.
  10. ^ Roberts, Nesta (27 September 1973). "Case of conflict". The Guardian. p. 17.
  11. ^ "The World's Top Twenty Films". Sunday Times. London, England. 27 September 1970.
  12. ^ Lee, Langley; Deray, Jacques (24 November 1970). "Bonnie and Clyde with garlic: Lee Langley interviews Alain Delon and Jacques Deray about Borsalino, the film they made together". The Guardian. London (UK). p. 8.
  13. ^ Thomas, Kevin (26 August 1970). "Love, Suspense in Swimming Pool". Los Angeles Times. p. 14.
  14. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (29 September 2011). "La Piscine-review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
  15. ^ MacNicol, Glynnis (21 August 2021). "Steamy French Thriller Is a 'Sleeper Smash Hit'". The New York Times. ISSN 1553-8095. Retrieved 21 September 2021.
  16. ^ "La Piscine". Criterion.
  17. ^ Kenny, Glenn (13 May 2021). "'La Piscine' Review: Pretty, Rich People Behaving Poorly". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  18. ^ Brody, Richard (23 August 2021). "The Movie World's Misplaced Worship of "The Swimming Pool"". The New Yorker.
  19. ^ "The Swimming Pool". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 1 January 2022.
  20. ^ Rees-Roberts, Nick (2012). "Men of mode: Alain Delon, Christian Dior and brand heritage". Film, Fashion & Consumption. Vol. 1, no. 1. Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  21. ^ Van Renterghem, Marion (4 January 2018). "Alain Delon: 'Women were all obsessed with me'". GQ Magazine UK. Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  22. ^ Canova, Gianni (September 2015). "Luca Guadagnino, Tilda Swinton & Dakota Johnson". L'Uomo Vogue. Vogue Italia. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 2 November 2017.

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