La Piscine is one of those wonderful French films that often gets kind of swept under the rug when we think of 60s French cinema. The cast alone is includes Alain Delon, Romy Schneider and Jane Birkin, all at the prime of their cinematic fame. Released in 1969, it was the fourth most popular movie at the French box offices that year. The story is set in the south of France during a particularly steamy summer––Marianne (Schneider) and Jean-Paul (Delon) are vacationing at their friend’s summer home when Harry (Maurice Ronet), friend of Jean-Paul and former fling of Marianne, stops by unexpectedly with his daughter Penelope (Birkin). The luxuriously relaxed Côte d’Azur villa setting sits in sharp contrast to the slow simmering drama of sexual tension and jealousy that subtly builds over several days.
The setting is stunning, very old school Mediterranean villa with mid-century modern furnishings, and the cast boast’s some of French cinema’s most beautiful people dressed in the designs of the movie’s costume designer and tastemaker of French fashion, André Courrèges. The look is relaxed French cool––bathing suits abound as well as crisp white dresses, t-shirts and blouses. Marianne, the older of the two girls, favors dresses and bathing suits of the haltered variety. When going grocery shopping, she sports a pale blue blouse with crisp navy slacks that’s smart and feels very Courrèges. She exudes the kind of confidence that you would expect from an intelligent woman as beautiful as Romy Schneider. Penelope, the doe eyed teenager, dresses in a very girlish mod fashion. Mini skirts, high waister trousers, and crocheted coverups flaunt Jane Birkin’s infamous legs. The wicker basket she was notoriously always carrying is seen throughout the film too (this is the very bag whose malfunction would go on to inspire Hermes CEO Jean-Louis Dumas to create the Birkin bag). Between the two of them, they have the kind of classic casual French wardrobe that’s equal parts preppy and flirtatious that we all wish we could have.