Just Lust

There's nothing I like better to commemorate the launch of another brilliant, beautiful Seattle summer than hiding away in darkened movie theaters to ogle beautiful young actresses. It was this impulse that allowed me to sit through the excruciating Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, despite my all-fired hatred of the director, the style, and the sensibility of the franchise. What it had going for it was Drew Barrymore, the guiltiest of all my movie star pleasure centers. Barrymore has proven time and time again that she isn't much of an actress. In fact, she's kind of lousy. She also has a knack for choosing star vehicles that make me want to retch. That's why it's so hard for me to contain my glee every time a new one is announced. Despite her dramatic flaws, Barrymore has proven to be the little adolescent sex symbol that could--as she ages, she just keeps getting foxier, and her star power (that's the only term for it, I'm afraid) is so winning that you (I) root for her even as she bungles scene after scene.

I am excited, though, to report that Drew has been displaced on my movie star lust radar by an actress less likely to provoke the censure of my peers, a sex symbol I can ogle freely, and champion openly--not only is she a good actress, she is French, and most people I know have never heard of her. Though I am happily married, I believe I would throw it all away for one handshake from Ludivine Sagnier. Ludivine Sagnier first exploded into my consciousness in the trailer for François Ozon's perverse love quadrangle Water Drops on Burning Rocks. She plays a lusty young ingénue whose multidirectional carnality is powerful enough to turn a cryptoexistential bedroom farce into a dour human tragedy. She spends most of the film dressed only in a bra and panties, except when she removes them, thus motorizing the film into the pantheon of cinematic lust.

Her next appearance, in Ozon's 8 Women, gave me pause, however, and not just because she played a 15-year-old schoolgirl. It's difficult enough being a grown man in a world where sex with minors is being peddled on every magazine cover in the supermarket. Ozon understands Sagnier's power better than anyone (except me, perhaps), which is why his inversion of it--alongside vamps like Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle Béart, Fanny Ardant, and Virginie Ledoyen, Ludivine is effectively de-sexed, and therefore all the more noticeable--makes the entire film a dialogue with androgyny.

Now Ozon has returned with another vehicle for his muse, and this time, her sexuality is foregrounded. As anyone who has seen the poster for Swimming Pool must have noticed, Sagnier's oiled, bikini-clad body is the film's main attraction; even the great Charlotte Rampling is relegated to silhouette status. Next week, there'll be a review of the Hitchcock-inspired thriller in these pages. Until then, I'll be counting the minutes.