Swimmer [1968]

Burt Lancaster gives one of his most daringly complex performances in The Swimmer, a fascinating adaptation of John Cheever's celebrated short story. At first it seems that middle-aged businessman Ned Merrill (Lancaster) is merely enjoying a spontaneous adventure, swimming from pool to pool among the well-tended estates of his affluent Connecticut neighborhood. But as Ned encounters a variety of neighbors, we see from their reactions that Ned's on an entirely different kind of journey--that he is balanced on the edge of some mysterious psychosis that we can't fully understand until the film's final, devastating image. A compelling portrait of loss, refracted memories, and deep-rooted emotional denial, The Swimmer sprung from the same late-'60s soil that yielded similarly ground-breaking literary films like The Graduate and Goodbye, Columbus. It's an egotistical showcase for the physical prowess of its 55-year-old star, but Lancaster turns it into something deeper, more disturbing, and completely unforgettable. --Jeff Shannon

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