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A belly flop at the box office upon its initial release, THE SWIMMER has become an underground classic and a quintessential film of the 1960’s. Peculiar and enigmatic, it plays like a lost TWILIGHT ZONE episode and will haunt you well after its final lap.
Based on John Cheever’s short story of the same name, Ned (Burt Lancaster) is the titular character of the tale. On a beautiful summer’s day he decides that he is going to “swim” across the county to his home.
But the “Lucinda River” is in actuality a connection of neighboring swimming pools and at each location; Ned must confront his past as the homeowners vary in how they react to his unannounced visits.
The plot is simple but the result of the journey is anything but. It becomes clear very early on that something is not quite right in Denmark especially when it’s revealed that Ned has been absent from the social scene for some time.
Considered one of Lancaster’s finest performances, it is also a very dark one and uncomfortable to watch at times for its awkward emotional moments. At each home, we witness a degeneration of his soul, which leads to an unforgettable conclusion.
Like the more recent UNDER THE SKIN (2014), THE SWIMMER isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s a bit of an art film and feels tonally like a stage play at times. But it’s also very unique and has certainly earned its fans.
I highly recommend that if you see the film, watch it on the recently released Blu-Ray from Grindhouse Releasing. The film has been remastered in 4K and looks absolutely stunning. For a film that relies heavily on gorgeous visuals, this is the only way it should be seen.
For those who like cult cinema and trying something new, THE SWIMMER is a MUST SEE MOVIE and worth taking a dip in its murky waters.