Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson, Aurore Clément, Lily McMenamy
Written by: David Kajganich, based on a story by Alain Page
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
MPAA Rating: R for graphic nudity, some strong sexual content, language and brief drug use
Running Time: 124
Date: 05/09/2016

A Bigger Splash (2016)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Dead Pool

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A loose remake of Jacques Deray's La Piscine (1969), this fascinating character drama is alive in a very sensual way, zeroing in on atmosphere and environment and the way they react with humans. Italian director Luca Guadagnino, who previously worked with Tilda Swinton in the superb I Am Love, has a way of wringing core emotions out of rather turgid material, and finding a story worth telling.

Rock star Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) is taking time off after vocal surgery with her boyfriend, photographer Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), on a beautiful island near Italy. Unexpectedly, their old friend Harry (Ralph Fiennes), a record producer shows up with his beautiful young daughter, Penelope (Dakota Johnson, much more interesting here than in Fifty Shades of Grey), in tow. They proceed to enjoy the island, swimming, drinking, going to festivals, etc. But the past relationship between Marianne and Harry slowly rears its head, and Penelope seems to have eyes for Paul. Everything comes to a head when an argument goes awry, and everyone's relationships are truly tested.

Guadagnino does not shy away from nudity and adult sexual situations, each of which ties back into the story's outcome. He shoots the Italian hideaway in ways that make it seem both relaxing and stirring, with delicious-looking food and a sunny swimming pool, as well as invasions from snakes and geckos. The director occasionally focuses on stray details, sometimes suddenly zooming in, creating a strangely off-putting, but alluring effect. A Bigger Splash tells a lurid story, but one with unexpected highs and psychological depths.

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