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Film review: A Bigger Splash – Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes in sexually decadent Mediterranean drama

Four-way dynamics sizzle between a rock star, a documentary maker, a record producer ex-boyfriend and his daughter in this reboot of French cult film

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 June, 2016, 8:01am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 June, 2016, 8:00am

4/5 stars

Luca Guadagnino’s follow-up to his tremendous I Am Love is a sultry re-interpretation of La Piscine. Jacques Deray’s 1969 cult film starred Alain Delon, Romy Schneider and Jane Birkin, though Guadagnino’s cast is hardly shabby. Leading the line is his I Am Love star Tilda Swinton, who plays Marianne Lane, a faded rock star with a Bowie-like swagger, now nursing an operation on her vocal chords that has rendered her hoarse.

With Marianne recuperating with her documentary-filmmaker boyfriend Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), the two are hiding out on the remote island of Pantelleria, a volcanic, dusty but undeniably evocative outcrop off the Italian coast. Arriving like a tornado is Marianne’s garrulous ex-boyfriend, record producer Harry (Ralph Fiennes), who has brought his young daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson) along for the ride.

How Luca Guadagnino restyled a ’60s cult film to be A Bigger Splash

What follows is a comic clash of personalities – notably the substance-abusing Harry against recovering alcoholic Paul. Fiennes has rarely been better; the scene where he dances to a Rolling Stones track is liable to take centre-stage on his clip reel for years to come. Johnson, playing the Lolita-esque offspring in a reversal of her Fifty Shades of Grey role, is also intriguing, as she flirts her way around Paul.

As the third act unfolds, tragedy strikes – and the outcome is arguably less interesting than the sizzling four-way dynamic that preceded it. There’s also an odd scene involving migrants that feels out of place. But no doubt, Guadagnino is expert at conjuring a pungent, sexually decadent atmosphere – a ringmaster in full control of his circus.

A Bigger Splash opens on June 16

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