Last night watched Burt Lancaster’s 1968 The Swimmer — Ned Merrill decides to “swim home” — visualizing a “necklace of azure blue swimming pools stretching across the county.” He jogs in a proto-Speedo through upper crust neighborhoods and forest land to the swimming pools of people he’s known or barely known through the decades of his life. He crashes their pool parties, trespasses with presumption into the backyards of their lives, as they become a mirror for the examination of his own life. As is slowly revealed, he is a boob, a loser of a man laboring under delusions of adequacy.
1968 must have been the year the “pull focus” technique was invented. Every other shot starts blurry then glides into focus, or vice versa. And every time he’s having a particularly insightful moment the camera zooms in on his perfect blue eyeballs, as refracted diamonds of light dance on the lens.
The conclusion is a “twist” that’s supposed to make you leave the theater feeling blown away, but today just seems absurdly, wonderfully ham-fisted.