The Swimmer

Frank Perry and Sydney Pollack's relatively unloved The Swimmer (1968) is one of the oddest Hollywood films ever made: nakedly existentialist, Kafkaesque in its structural metaphor, Beckettian in its deadened rhythms. Expanding upon but remaining faithful to John Cheever's brief, dry-eyed suburban wail, the film maintains a first-person association with Burt Lancaster's disoriented Westchester family man as he swims his way home through his uncongenial (and often outright wary) neighbors' pools, a journey during which summer turns to autumn, and suburban belonging becomes lonesome madness. The movie was derided in 1968 as pretentious and faux-solemn, but time has revealed it to be a compelling bizarrerie that seems altogether courageous, visually potent (Lancaster's dwindling man loping half-naked through the forest and across highways), and chilling. As semi-subconscious fables of modern masculine displacement go, it rivals Frankenheimer's Seconds. (NR) MICHAEL ATKINSON

July 10-16, 9 p.m.; Sat., July 11, 5 p.m., 2009

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