1968: Expressions of a Flame – The Swimmer
** Co-presented by Democratic Socialists of America! **
Frank and Eleanor Perry’s haunting adaptation of John Cheever’s short story The Swimmer stars Burt Lancaster, tan and fit at 52, in one of his finest performances as Neddy Merrill. Neddy begins his day at a pool party in the affluent Connecticut suburb where he lives with his wife. Realizing that the many swimming pools of the neighborhood form a “river” of sorts, he decides to “swim home” for the day using the pools. As he visits the various houses and visits with their inhabitants, some strangers, some friends, the interactions take on an increasingly strained and surreal quality, and we begin to question how much time has passed before coming upon the film’s still-shocking ending. A classic Technicolor portrait of modern ennui, The Swimmer looks at the nostalgic American capacity for self-deception as a poisonous delusion.
“… 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.” – Chuck Bowen, Slant