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869 Ratings

The Swimmer

United States, 1968


Neddy Merrill has been away for most of the summer. He reappears at a friends pool. As they talk, someone notices that there are pools spanning the entire valley. He decides to jog from pool to pool to swim the whole valley.

Our take

It was 1968, and Old Hollywood was giving way to New Hollywood. Based on a classic American short story by John Cheever (featuring scenes directed by an uncredited Pollack) this cult film is a dreamy, disturbing trip through alienated suburbia, with Burt Lancaster’s adonis as an eerie memento mori.

The Swimmer Directed by Frank Perry, Sydney Pollack

Critics reviews

Whatever the film had to invent to accommodate its own movieness, it retains the story’s grimmest emotional torque… What literature does in our heads, privately, cinema does in the room, totemically. It’s possible to read the story as one man’s psychological tribulation, but the film is about an entire generation of mystified American men.
June 14, 2017
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However you parse the film’s high and low points you have to admit that there is not now, nor has there ever been, anything quite like it. The last scene is cornball but also freakishly powerful. We seem to be experiencing Ned’s final collapse from inside his own mind. He’s Willy Loman and Miss Havisham put together, and the wind and water just keep scourging the ivy-covered walls of what used to be his home. He is the author of his misfortune, but at the same time, no one deserves this.
February 08, 2016
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The literal “truth” of The Swimmer doesn’t much matter, though, as it conveys the emotional texture of social disconnection with a vividness that’s exceptionally unusual for American films featuring iconic movie stars. Lancaster achieves something that’s difficult and altogether remarkable for films or art of any sort: He allows you to see how the hero sees himself and how that view poignantly and tragically differs from the way his world has grown to see him.
March 13, 2014
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What are people saying?

  • Sam DiSalle's rating of the film The Swimmer

    not sure i got it. not sure if there's anything to get. my feeling is that it made sense to upper class people when it was new and now stands as a kind of weird relic of its time. but burt is good (and chiseled!), it looks good and it maintains interest in its strange premise. janice rule(s!) is elegant and powerful in her scenes. and it (briefly!) features joan rivers(!)

  • Ghostman's rating of the film The Swimmer

    Capturing the doubt, paranoia, & fear of a class of people unable to reflect inwardly enough to imagine a world that could exist without them as well as helping introduce a new found, if short lived, aesthetic freedom & existentialism in American Cinema that New Hollywood would exchange in favor of the high concept blockbuster that would be used to return to the white bourgeois image that the film so acutely degrades

  • Matthew Martens's rating of the film The Swimmer

    The loneliness of the pool-hopping swimmer. The death-in-life of a merman. Where the swimming pools end. Released half a year after The Graduate, The Swimmer serves up a Greatest Generation supplement to that film's boomer ennui. You can't be sixty on sugar mountain. But if you're lucky, you get to be Burt Lancaster--or Tuesday Weld, with whom Perry, a master-adapter of literary anomie, later made Play It As It Lays.

  • lbunuel's rating of the film The Swimmer

    This oddity is an interesting addition to the "American suburbia" genre. The premise is so absurd, so instantly allegorical, that the appeal is pretty much immediate. Unfortunately, by the end it forces its allegorical framing to an extent it does not reach dramatically, becoming heavy-handed and stiff. Still remains somehow magical, though.

  • Daniel S.'s rating of the film The Swimmer

    I'd sure like to know whether our beloved joggers have all seen this film. They could at last understand that there's a lot to discover about the world and themselves if only they could throw their earphones away. Masterpiece.

  • msmichel's rating of the film The Swimmer

    John Cheever short story is turned into this over-baked, under written Burt Lancaster vanity project. Praised in some circles as being indicative of the rotting of the American dream instead of a portrait of a delusional broken man that sometimes comes off as downright creepy (the babysitter, the young boy). Worse of all the extremely awful score by Marvin Hamlisch that is as subtle as glass breaking.

  • DrFirestone's rating of the film The Swimmer

    This film starts rather cheerfully on a sunny day, the main character jumps pool to pool and we learn more about him slowly exposing the truth. As all the pieces of information are coming together the tone is changing completely. This film flows so smoothly... it's amazing. Wonderful cinematography, cast and acting. Absolutely recommended!

  • Scorpio Velvet's rating of the film The Swimmer

    See Burt Lancaster wearing his swimming trunks as he goes pool to pool throughout the county in this stunning classic of the late 'swining sixties'. Lot of great acting and filmmaking it had alongside the ending being powerful. Swim on, Lancaster!

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