BR: Bigger Splash, A (2015)

September 6, 2016 | By

BiggerSplash_BRFilm:  Excellent

Transfer: Excellent

Extras: Standard

Label: Twentieth Century-Fox

Region: A

Released:  September 6, 2016

Genre:  Drama

Synopsis: The peace & quiet enjoyed by a convalescing rock star and her beau are shattered by the arrival of an old flame and his tarty, newfound daughter.

Special Features: 8 Promo Featurettes: “The Silent One (:29) + “The Extroverted One” (:29) + “The Young One” (:32) + “The Mysterious One” (:30) + “Story and Characters” (2:05) + “Beneath the Surface” (2:15) + “The Inspiration” (1:07) + “Another World” (1:50) / Stills Gallery (2:25) / Theatrical Trailer.





If Luca Guadagnino’s poolside film of jealousies and an underage temptress seems a little familiar to connoisseurs of Jacques Deray’s La Piscine / The Swimming Pool (1969), it’s not because it’s an homage, but the second remake of Deray’s classic drama (after Francois Ozon’s 2003 Swimming Pool) where repressed emotions and insinuations explode in a peculiarly restrained event that’s still tragic at the end, but also a little darkly comedic.

At least that’s what screenwriter David Kajganich (The InvasionTrue Story) has created in his very clever reworking of Alain Page and Deray’s original script (itself based on Raoul Solar’s novel). Instead of the south of France, the events presumably take place off the Italian isle of Lampedusa (or real location Pantelleria), known today more as the first stepping stone for Middle Eastern and African refugees seeking safety from war-ravaged homelands than a rocky, broiling, sleepy little island.

The much needed rest of burnt-out rock icon Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) and lover / photographer Paul (Matthias Schoenarts) is severely interrupted when Marianne’s old flame and record producer Harry Hawkes (Ralph Fiennes) arrives with not another young protege, but his newfound daughter Penelope (blonde-bleached Dakota Johnson). Over the course of what seems like several weeks, the oddball couples drink, laugh dine, dance, and wait for the optimum moments to pounce on each other, which happens when the two ex-lovers are together for too long, and Penelope and Paul trek to a remote beach on the isle’s volcanic hills.

Although there is frank, European-flavoured nudity in A Bigger Splash, the film, like it’s predecessors, is about seething conflicts. Guadagnino layers scenes with further bait that leads to the loss of a life, and to some extent, destroys already challenging friendships. Guadagnino’s influence is less Deray and more Jonathan Glazer, replicating the same scorching rocky coastal environment of Sexy Beast (2000), and the premise of inherently good people whose lives are irreparably damaged by an alpha big mouth.

Fiennes’ Harry needs to be the centre of attention, so he cannonballs into the pool and wets everything in sight, cooks rich dinners and lunches, choreographs the social activities in-house and in-town, and keeps pushing Marianne to use the voice she’s supposed to be suppressing so it can heal and sustain her international career. He’s also the architect of Marianne’s seven years strong romance with Paul, having ‘given’ her to Paul when it was time to call it quits.

Penelope is the tale’s Lolita, self-quoted as 22 but more high school, and ultimately the bait that Harry uses to maneuver himself back into Marianne’s life for a second chance. The whole plan ultimately backfires, but it’s indicative of what a shit he’s become: instead of bonding with his new daughter, he behaves like a lover (admitting to lusting after her but keeping those urges carefully at bay) and a pimp, using Penelope to distract Paul long enough, and perhaps disgrace him so a horrified Marianne will run back to Harry.

Harry doesn’t ‘bark’ like Sexy Beast‘s bulldog monster Don (Ben Kingsley), but he is a wedge and a terrible influence, and like Glazer’s film, the finale gets dark & disturbing, deals with a cover-up, and concludes with a darkly humorous end scene that ensures the core couple remain intact and have a sense of a tangible future together. One can even argue Harry’s downfall is a good thing, ridding him from Paul and Marianne’s lives, and freeing Penelope from life as a poor student to a beneficiary of Harry’s estate.

Instead of original score, Guadagnino opts for well-placed source music ranging from The Rolling Stones (pivotal to the film), classical, avant garde, and even a smatttering of Popol Vuh. Yorick Le Saux’s cinematography is rich in detail and scalded colours, and Walter Fasano’s editing condenses the opening scenes and occasionally slices some minimalist flashbacks to contextualize conflicts, but he ably mines the slow-burning conflicts in the middle and finale that contain the meat of Bigger Splash‘s drama.

Johnson’s temptress is fine – Penelope is a better role with superior dialogue than the laughable pseudo-naughtie 50 Shades of Gray (2015) – but it’s really Fiennes and Swinton who shine, with Harry being loud, naked, and conniving, and Marianne communicating through hand gestures, posture, and whispers.

Technically, La Piscine has been filmed four times: Deray’s simultaneously shot French & English versions; Francois Ozon updated the tale for a Euro-set, English language version in 2003, and Guadagnino created a hyrid of Deray’s core quartet of characters with the cynicism and cruel humour of Sexy Beast, a drama that morphs into a British crime thriller whose central scenes always occur close to a bodies of water.

Fox’s Blu-ray sports a gorgeous transfer with sharp sound, and the handful of grating promotional featurettes that should’ve been edited into a fluid, less repetitive single work. The most important factoid is Swinton requesting Marianne be reconfigured from an actress to a rock star who can’t speak among characters with serious communication issues.



© 2016 Mark R. Hasan



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