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So....I noted Roger Ebert's passing, and was thinking about Film.  Burt Lancaster is pretty Old School, and sometimes his acting was a bit wooden, but when he was handed the right script, by the right director...he could do a fine job.  I was thinking about one of the oddest films today...probably because I am going through some storms of my own, and this film certainly chronicles one man's storm.  It's probably the best work Burt Lancaster ever did, and perhaps one of the least watched.  

The Film is "The Swimmer", made in 1968, and directed by Frank Perry.  It was based upon a short story by John Cheever, and as Roger Ebert points out in his review, the film really conveys the sense of a literary short story.  The narrative quality of the film is sparse.  It's all about character and setting.  And insinuation of "the rest of the story."

If you've never seen this flick...check it out.  It may not change your mind about Burt Lancaster, if you are not inclined to think of him as a great actor, but it might soften your attitude.

Here's a sort of cheesey trailer to the was really unlike most films that Hollywood released at the time.  I have to wonder who it was that green lighted the project.

Burt Lancaster was before my time.  I was born in 1956.  He was born in 1913.  Still, I've seen many of his films, and it's hard to argue that the man wasn't attractive, as well as a good actor.  "The Birdman of Alcatraz", "Elmer Gantry", "Trapeze", "From Here to Eternity"...all the way to "Field of Dreams."  He aged well.

In 1968, he was 55 years old.  If I looked that good in bathing trunks 2 years ago, let me tell you, people...I'd be wearing them 24/7.  But that's beside the point.

When I first watched this film, I was a little perplexed.  It sort of went over my head.  I was looking for a story, and what I got was character.  I actually did also get a story...but just not the sort of story that Hollywood usually tells, and so it wasn't the story I was looking for.  There was no "beginning...action...and ending"  It wasn't neat.

It was, as Ebert says in his review, quite literary.  If you watch this film, or remember it, the thing that strikes you is this..for a film that is 45 years old, it feels very experimental.  There are some quirky Indy films made these days, but this was made when the old Hollywood Studios still reigned, but were nearing their end.  

If this film were made today, with younger and fresher faces, and more modern dialogue, it would be well received.  

I've never read the Cheever short story.  I really should do that.  I'm sure it's chock full of biting observations of mid-century suburbia.  In fact, he has been called the "Chekhov of the Suburbs", "The Ovid of Ossining.."

But they don't really make films like this today.  Mostly because this film was about the moment, and that moment is 45 years past.  The movies made today, quirky or otherwise, that capture the zeitgeist of the hour feel completely differently.  

Frank Perry made a few other films of note..."Diary of a Mad Housewife", "Play it as it Lays", "Mommie Dearest"...he was nominated for an oscar in 1962 for his directorial debut in "David and Lisa."

If you read this and belong to Netfix or can stream this movie from another source...I encourage you to check out "The Swimmer."  For some it will bring back memories.  For others, it offers a pretty good glimpse into American culture round about 1964.  It was more than Mad Men.

Originally posted to Keith930 on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 06:43 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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