I like to think I’m fairly well versed in “odd” cinema, but every so often something comes along that takes the term odd, twists it on it’s head ,shuts me down and tells me to humble the fuck up. This time, it was The Swimmer, recently released from Grindhouse Releasing, a film from 1968 starring Burt Lancaster and his small pair of swim shorts.
The premise of this movie goes a little something like this: It’s a beautiful sunny day in the whitest part of upper crust Connecticut and, as I will assume as was the fashion of the time because it amuses me, Burt is out for a wander in the forest in nothing but his tiny bathing suit(watch out for deer mites Burt!). I mean, the man is obviously in shape and wants to show it off, but doesn’t this wardrobe choice just start interactions with people off awkwardly? Where the hell was he previous to the forest that this was acceptable? Not likely 7-11 with their stringent no shirt no shoes nonsense. Just the start of the strangeness I guess.
Anyhow, he stumbles upon his friends and their in-ground pool (the ultimate symbol of white affluence) and while catching up with them gets it in his head that “the pools form a river” and he is going to swim home. I feel at this point that Burt should probably have shared the heavy does of LSD he was to come to this conclusion on with the audience just so we could all see this river, but whatever; moving on. Setting his plan in motion, he takes a quick swim in his pool and is off running to the next hapless victim of his short shorted swimming “expedition” (his words, not mine).
This setup allows the character to encounter a cavalcade of people from his life, from childhood to just a few years previous to when the movie is set. Gradually, we watch as his encounters with people shift from positive to negative, light-hearted to dark. Early on there are jokes and laughter and flirting but by the end of the movie we are left watching a desperate man cling to what are potentially fabricated (or at least slightly skewed) memories of himself, his family and his lot in life.
Grindhouse Releasing did, as has come to be expected, a phenomenal job on the restoration and presentation of this blu ray. It’s without a doubt the finest presentation this film has ever received and, until we have holographic televisions or beam movies right into our brains, likely the best it will receive. In true Grindhouse fashion, the movie comes packed with extras, including 2 ½ hours of documentaries about the film, a reading by the author of the short story the film was based on, as well as more trailers and still galleries than you can shake a stick at. If you’re a fan of the movie already or just like watching offbeat stuff, pull on those swim trucks and pick this release up.