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 byAvco Embassy Pictures (US)[2]
Release dates
  • 31 January 1969 (1969-01-31) (France)
  • 5 April 1969 (1969-04-05) (Italy)
Running time
124 minutes
Box office3,010,464 admissions (France)[3][4]

La Piscine (The Swimming Pool)[5] 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. 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 claw 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.

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, the two men finally confront each other. 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 hiding Harry's wet clothes, making 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. When she tells Jean-Paul, he confesses everything to her, and she goes to see the evidence that would have given him away. But when she does not give it to the police, the inquiry is dropped.

Marianne takes Penelope to the airport and sees her off as she returns to her mother. 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.[6] French designer André Courrèges created many custom pieces for the film, such as the swimsuits worn by Schneider and Birkin.[7] It was the first of the nine films Delon and director Jacques Deray made together,[8] 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) and romantic partner in 1958–1963.[9]

It was during the making of this film that the Markovic Affair broke out.[10] The body of Stevan Markovic, 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]

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.[17]


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.[18]


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

Alain Delon said in an interview that he cannot watch this film again. His ex-lover Romy Schneider and good friend Maurice Ronet both died prematurely and under tragic circumstances. Revisiting the scenes is simply too painful for him.[19]


  1. ^ Leonard (15 March 1970). "The Rest of Micher Legrand's Feather". Los Angeles Times. p. 46.
  2. ^ "Song, Dance Man All Tapped Out". Los Angeles Times. December 11, 1969. p. h17.
  3. ^ Box Office information for film at Box Office Story
  4. ^ "La Piscine (1969)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  5. ^ Histoire du Cinéma Français 1966–1970, eds. Maurice Bessy, Raymond Chirat and André Bernard; ISBN 978-2857043799; entry 235
  6. ^ "La Piscine – Fiche Film – La Cinémathèque française". Retrieved 2019-10-22.
  7. ^ AnOther (2016-07-22). "Lessons We Can Learn From La Piscine". AnOther. Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  8. ^ Bergan, Ronald (2003-08-28). "Obituary: Jacques Deray". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  9. ^ Tchernia, Pierre, ed. (1989). 80 grands succès du cinéma policier français. Paris: Casterman. p. 72. ISBN 2203298081. OCLC 21614392.
  10. ^ Roberts, Nesta (September 27, 1973). "Case of conflict". The Guardian. p. 17.
  11. ^ "The World's Top Twenty Films." Sunday Times, London, England, 27 September 1970. The Sunday Times Digital Archive. accessed 5 April 2014
  12. ^ Langley, Lee; Deray, Jacques (November 24, 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. f14.
  14. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (2011-09-29). "La Piscine – review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-10-22.
  15. ^ MacNicol, Glynnis (2021-08-21). "LA Steamy French Thriller Is a 'Sleeper Smash Hit'". The New York Times. ISSN 1553-8095. Retrieved 2021-09-21.
  16. ^ Deray, Jaques. "La piscine".
  17. ^ "The Swimming Pool". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 2022-01-01.
  18. ^ Canova, Gianni (September 2015). "Luca Guadagnino, Tilda Swinton & Dakota Johnson". L'Uomo Vogue. Vogue Italia. Retrieved 2017-11-02.
  19. ^ Alain Delon : "Je ne pourrai jamais revoir La Piscine"

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