The Swimmer (1968)


The Swimmer is a dreamy and sinister-edged existential voyage through late-60s suburbia. A pretty remarkable movie for it’s time and not just because Burt Lancaster’s entire wardrobe for 95 minutes is a sole pair of swimming trunks. John Cheever, the author of the short story behind The Swimmer, was a huge influence on Mad Men and if you squint hard enough you can see an alternate reality in which Don Draper donned shorts and became Lancaster’s Ned Merrill. The difference being that this movie was actually made in 1966 (but released two years later). Lancaster is incredible and the film is close to scoring full marks. A few dodgy stylistic flourishes (apparently tagged on by Sydney Pollack) break the aesthetic illusion now and again but the scenes soon recover. This movie feels mega-obscure now and is even more beautiful because of it’s cult status. What the hell did audiences make of this back in the day? It’s brilliant but as a cracked mirror being held up to reality, the reflection staring back is almost too vivid and disturbing. It’s like a stick of dynamite being thrown into the pool of bullshit. A movie that sticks in your head for days.

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