Blu-Ray Review: The Swimmer

In a career which began after World War II and spanned five decades, Burt Lancaster proved beyond a shadow of doubt his range and ability as an actor. The former circus performer made his name by playing tough guys with a heart of gold, and it was this mix of malice and humanity which made him such a fascinating star. In such a rich and varied career, it’s difficult to single out his best performance, but The Swimmer would be right up there.

It’s a beautiful day in a wealthy suburb of Connecticut and Ned Merrill (Lancaster) plans to make the most of it. He’s not been around for a while but he’s considered to be a lively character and good sport by his friends and neighbours. Despite being in his 50s, Ned has kept himself trim and loves nothing better than taking a dip in one of their pools. He has an epiphany, deciding to ‘swim his way home’ through their backyards. This thought becomes an obsession.

The Swimmer is one of the most singular films you’ll ever see. As Ned embarks on his odyssey, his rich luxurious playground gradually turns into a nightmare. The beautiful paradise begins to shows signs of decay, rotting from the inside. Lancaster is mesmerising as an almost messianic figure, driven by a pure dream which becomes increasingly corrupt. Written and directed by husband and wife team, Frank and Eleanor Perry, and adapted from John Cheever’s short story, The Swimmer oscillates between a poetic fantasy and a biting social critique. It’s a cinematic revelation.

Special features:

  • 2014 restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with Frank Perry biographer Justin Bozung (2022)
  • Marge Champion on ‘The Swimmer’ (2013, 18 mins): onstage interview with the actor, conducted by filmmaker Allison Anders at the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival, TCL Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, after a screening of The Swimmer
  • Against the Tide (2022, 11 mins): actor, comedian and filmmaker Richard Ayoade discusses the unique genius of the Perrys’ film
  • ‘The Swimmer’ Read by John Cheever (2004, 26 mins): the original New Yorker short story read by the author
  • Title sequence outtakes
  • Isolated music & effects track
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Illeana Douglas trailer commentary (2019, 6 mins)
  • TV spots
  • Image galleries: storyboards, deleted scenes, promotional and publicity material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Limited edition exclusive 80-page book with a new essay by Sophie Monks Kaufman, a profile of writer John Cheever, extracts from interviews with Frank Perry and Eleanor Perry on the making of the film, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits
  • Limited edition exclusive poster
  • UK premiere on Blu-ray
  • Limited edition of 5,000 copies for the UK

The Swimmer is released on limited edition Blu-ray by Powerhouse Films as part of their Indicator series on 22 August.

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