Watching Swimming Pool

Charlotte Rampling, once ravishing boyish bombshell, playing
Sarah Morton, crime detective novelist, nearly sixty.
A young writer shakes her hand with a cocky smirk,
“My mother loves your work.” His grin says it all. She seethes.

Her English publisher waning lover sends her to his French home to write.
His blond nubile daughter arrives unexpectedly.
Sarah watches, we watch, the girl bare breasted with still, hooded gaze
at the pool, or eating cereal, or writing in a journal, everything topless,
breasts bobbing over the mundane moments of living.
What she does when no one is watching. But the girl moves
as though she is being watched, as we learn to do, moving for men.

Later, Sarah listens, we listen, to the girl moaning with oafish older men.
Cut to bedroom: we watch her, not him, and she knows we are watching.
Charlotte plays reserved Sarah, but Charlotte has had her share of sex on film.
We know she knows this writhing for the best theatrical angle, yet, still,
Sarah reaches for earplugs. We see men notice her despite the girl, despite her years.
French cinema, you know. Tres complex.

We notice her. How can we not. She is Charlotte Rampling. Lying near the pool,
the camera pans her rigid angled length the way it panned the curvy smooth girl earlier.
We see Sarah’s veined sinewy feet, the boyish thin hips, the breasts flattened by gravity
in a modest swimming suit. Perhaps we are meant to be saddened by this juxtaposition,
the way age dries and robs the most beautiful women of water and luster. She steals it back
by writing, stiff faced, a rough wall, eyelids crumbling. The publisher avoids her calls.

These are the kept scenes, the ones we see, expect to see: an older woman,
leatherly, alone, stuck in her wordy mind robbing the lives of the young,
unable to land Franck, the interested sexy waiter, before he is killed by the girl.
She even helps the girl bury him. Oh, how we had hoped victory for her!
Let the old woman have the young man for once! We know what gives us worth.

We are surprised when she bares her old and surprisingly lovely breasts on the balcony
to the murder-suspecting gardener. As a ruse, a distraction, she seduces him:
short, unshaven, white whiskered, pear bellied, sweaty old man, to save
the young girl’s neck. She writes the girl’s story, becomes like a mother to her,
of course, and publishes the book behind her publisher lover’s back.
She has won, but it is the winning of a jealous crone getting back her own.
This is when she finally, truly smiles. The end.

But you know how DVD’s are. There is always more. What was cut. Click it.

Sarah wandering the French village alone, lean, self-contained, ordering at the café,
served by the sexy French Franck she barely notices. Clicking down stone streets
on stick legs in loose beige slacks, peering into dark rubbled windows,
touching rough walls of the fallen castle of de Sade, stiff limbed, tall,
upright, heavy lidded, self-bridled, always almost grinning. She is Sarah Morton,
writer, yet she is Charlotte. We know she is both, though it is cold
how she moves, selecting round fruits in the market and tubs of yogurt,
cool foods that need no cooking. And wine. So quiet. Days without words.

She eagerly plops perpendicular into a green slatted patio chair at a green slatted table,
straight backed, to type. Her mouth moves with her fluttering fingers. Later, cigarette
hanging from lips, curled into a cushioned, high backed, wooden legged chair,
scribbling quickly on typed manuscripts, revising. Her face registering peace,
sometimes laughter, tickled, obviously, with her own genius.
When the publisher asks on the phone what she is writing, she won’t say.
Alone, she belongs only to herself, breast-stroking
across the empty pool wearing a floppy hat, dry faced, slightly smiling.

Still the camera pans, but in these scenes, the gardener is not watching.
Neither is the sexy waiter or publisher. Only we are. We can see
Charlotte is happy being watched as Sarah not being watched. She moves that way,
in awkward womanly angles, the aesthetic of utility, moving from here to there.
And I am happy watching her unwatched and happy: the deleted scenes,
the ones that make us not-women in the world, objects only to ourselves,
the ones the director knows are lovely on a screen, but won’t sell.


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