Francois Ozon (France, 1967) started out with
shorts such as Truth or Dare (1994),
Une Robe d'Ete/ A Summer Dress (1996),
Regarde la Mer/ See the Sea (1997) and
Les Amants Criminels/ Criminal Lovers (1999)
Gouttes d'Eau Sur Pierres Brulantes/ Water Drops On Burning Rocks (2000)
Souse le Sable/ Under the Sand (2000) is a powerful psychological
drama, in which a woman's madness is not only rooted in her love with her
husband but also in the doubt that he might not have loved her as much as
she believed. Her mind wavers between denial and grief, unable to accept
the final truth.
An aging couple, who seem to be happily married, drives to a summer chalet.
Their vacation seems quiet and uneventful until one day they spend the day
at the beach.
Marie suddenly realizes that her husband has disappeared. The beach is mostly
deserted, so there is no witness. The police is powerless. They investigate
a possible suicide. She cries, presumably suspecting that he drowned.
The story then shifts to a formal dinner. Marie talks about her husband
Jean as if he were alive. Her friend tries to set her up with another man,
who gives her a ride home, but, when he tries to kiss her, he rebuffs him.
Back home, she turns on the lights and Jean appears. They behave like young
lovers. The following morning she smiles seeing him in the kitchen.
She follows her usual routine: first the gym, then the swimming pool, then
work. She lectures in English at a university. But one day she breaks down
during class. One of her students approaches her: he was one of the lifeguards
who worked at the beach when her husband disappeared. She rudely denies she
was ever at that beach. She even buys clothes for her husband, although she
has trouble paying: her credit card is declined by the bank.
Nonetheless, she is thrilled and amused when she gets home and finds a message
on the answering machine from Vincent who wants to take her to a restaurant.
Then she turns and her husband is there, asking about this Vincent.
Nonetheless, she has dinner with Vincent and flirts with him.
They discuss Virginia Woolf's suicide. Back home she is again in the arms of
her husband, except that we see five hands on her face. Still dressed in her
formal red dress, she has an orgasm. The following day her attorney tells
her that he learned from her bank that she is spending more money than she has,
and that she still cannot access her husband's account.
She replies that she will speak to her husband about the problem...
Her friends obviously don't know how to deal with her madness.
She finally lets Vincent make love to her, but she starts laughing while
he is pushing inside her: she is not used to a light man.
She enjoys the sex, but tells him that it is the first time she has cheated
on her husband. Vincent too doesn't seem how to react to her fantasy that her
husband is still alive.
Then one evening she gets home and hears a message on the answering machine
from teh police: they found the body at the beach.
She turns off the machine and looks for Jean inside the house, but this time
she cannot find him, his ghost does not appear to her.
She does not return the phone call and resumes her routine, but refuses to see
Vincent again and starts shopping for a new apartment, letting the agent think
that there is a husband. At least she senses that something is wrong with her
and she sees a doctor. There she learns that her husband visited the doctor
just before their vacation. Back home she searches through her husband's things
until she finds a suspicious prescription, which instills in her mind the doubt
that he might have committed suicide. Marie confides her doubt to her best friend,
but not as a "he might have committed suicide": as a "he might be thinking of
committing suicide". Marie finally calls Vincent for a new date at her place,
but keeps talking to him about her husband in the present tense, as if he
were still alive. When Vincent confronts her, she insults him and he leaves her.
Marie visits Jean's mother, and breaks the news that they found the body.
With his mother Marie does not deny Jean's death. The old woman, though, is
more interested in offending Marie than helping her understand whether Jean
may have been thinking of suicide. Marie takes the train and a taxi to the
beach chalet. She finally visits the morgue and insists on seeing the cadaver,
despite warnings that it is in advanced state of putrefaction. Then she is asked
to identify the clothes and the watch. The watch matches the description that
she originally gave them, but now she claims that it is not Jean's watch,
and therefore refuses to recognize the cadaver as her husband's. She still
doesn't want to admit that he is dead.
Then she walks alone to the beach and cries: she knows that he is dead.
Then she sees a man standing in front of the waves and starts running towards
him: now she believes again that he is alive. We see her running towards the
man, closer and closer, and then running past him...
Huite Femmes/ Eight Women (2002), a musical
Swimming Pool (2003) is a psychological drama about an
It is not as powerful as Souse le Sable. Ozon is too calm and
detached to evoke real terror. The plot could be shocking but the direction
is not visceral enough.
When the movie turns into a murder story, it begins to look like a
parody of the detective movie.
More than anything else, the film is a portrait of two frustrated women of
different age groups, both living unreal lives (one in her books and the other
one in bed).
Everybody smokes all the time (but this is probably normal in French movies).
In the subway a passenger recognizes a middle-aged woman as a famous writer
but the woman coldly denies it and gets off the train.
She then visits her publisher: she is indeed the famous writer, Sarah,
who specializes in detective novels, but she is having
writer's block. Her publisher John offers her his country house in France.
During the train ride Sarah gets the idea for her next book and, upon arriving
at the beautiful house with swimming pool, sets out immediately to write it.
But just then a girl shows up: John's daughter. Sarah is furious that John
told her nothing about the daughter, but it's impossible to find John on
the phone. Julie is curious and noisy.
One night she brings a man home and they make loud in the living room, keeping
Sarah awake. The following day Sarah meets a handsome waiter who tells her about
DeSade's castle. She visits the castle and at night she dreams of the waiter
masturbating in front of Julie, also masturbating, by the pool.
Julie brings home another man, an older man who doesn't even know her name.
Sarah, again, hears all the moaning and pushing.
But this time her reaction is different: instead of being annoyed, she is
almost amused, and she starts writing on her computer about Julie.
She even brings Julie's underwear to her room.
When Julie calls her a frustrated woman who writes about sex but doesn't do
it, Sarah gets even more inspiration.
When Julie is away, Sarah searches the girl's room and finds her diary.
Sarah delves into the girl's diary and writes frantically.
One day Sarah even invites Julie to dinner.
Over dinner Sarah learns that John (whom Julie calls the "king of orgies")
abandoned his daughter when she was still a child. The girl lives by herself,
far away from her mother (for reasons that she doesn't want to discuss),
and a bruise under her eye proves that some of her encounters are dangerous.
She lost her virginity at the age of 13 and fell in love only once.
Now it is Julie's turn to get curious about Sarah: Julie enters Sarah's room
and finds Sarah's manuscript... about her.
Meanwhile, Sarah is flirting with the handsome waiter at the bistro, whom
Julie knows since childhood.
That night Julie shows up with a new man: that very waiter, Franck.
They ask Sarah to stick around while they dance, but soon Franck dances
with Sarah, leaving Julie alone and frustrated.
Then, at midnight, Julie insists that Franck swims naked with her.
Sarah watches from the windows and sees that Julie is performing oral sex on
him. She throws a rock in the pool and Franck pushes Julie away from him.
The following Julie walks to the bistro but Franck has disappeared.
At home she finds blood drops around the pool.
In the fireplace she finds remnants of the man's socks.
She takes the motorcycle and starts investigating. She stumbles into an old
woman who tells her that Julie's mother died years earlier in an accident and
slams the door in her face.
Back home Sarah finds Julie seized by an epileptic fit, screaming that she (Sarah) is her mother and faints.
When Julie wakes up, she candidly confesses that she killed Franck when he
tried to leave her.
The two women comically bury the corpse in the lawn near the pool,
working all night.
It is not clear why Sarah helps Julie hide the murder of an innocent man.
Julie asks Sarah to also burn her book because it contains evidence,
but Julie denies having read it.
The elderly caretaker, however, discovers the fresh mound of dirt while he is mowing the lawn.
Sarah does not hesitate to unbutton her dress and show him her tits
luring him into the house. He finds her naked in bed.
Sarah lets Julie leave the house, knowing that she's a murderer and may have
even murdered her own mother. Julie's last gift is the manuscript of a novel
that her mother wrote. Sarah uses that unpublished novel to finish her own.
The book is ready and she delivers it to John, titled "The Swimming Pool".
John doesn't like it because it is too intellectual, but she was prepared for
it: she has already published it with another publisher. On the way out
she sees John's daughter walk in. Her name is Julia and she is not sexy
at all. We see a flashback in which Sarah says bye not to Julie the sexy
daughter but to Julia the ugly daughter. Maybe what we saw is simply the
book that Sarah wrote.
Le Temps Qui Reste/ Time to Leave (2006)
Le Refuge/ Hideaway (2009)
Potiche/ Trophy Wife (2010)
Dans la Maison/ In the House (2012)
Jeune et Jolie/ Young & Beautiful (2013)
Une Nouvelle Amie/ The New Girlfriend (2014)
Frantz (2016), a stylish remake of Ernst Lubitsch's Broken Lullaby (1932), is a romantic melodrama set in World War I.
The erotic thriller
L'Amant Double/ Double Lover (2017) is an adaptation of
Joyce Carol Oates'
novel "Lives of the Twins/ Kindred Passions" (1987).
By the Grace of God (2019)