When I first heard about Grindhouse Releasing’s Bluray of The Swimmer, I had an inkling that Chris Innis‘s 150-minute “Story of The Swimmer” doc might be the most interesting aspect. Well, I watched it last night and can say without hesitation that it definitely is. (I’m not a huge fan of the film itself.) Innis has assembled a genuinely interesting account of the conflicted shooting and re-shooting of this 1968 effort. It’s the story of an intelligent, obviously ambitious project that was probably doomed to be a commercial failure from the get-go, and which still doesn’t work all that well. But in today’s context, it’s at least a respectable attempt to capture that spiritually corroded aura of the John Cheever realm (alcohol, affluence, New York-area suburbia) of the ’50s and ’60s.
Innis, winner of an Oscar (with Bob Murawski) for her cutting of The Hurt Locker, has not made a masterwork here. In some ways it’s a little bit splotchy and piecemeal but it’s basically a solid, stand-up effort, no stone unturned. Especially considering that all the creative principals (Burt Lancaster, Frank and Eleanor Perry, Sam Spiegel, Janice Rule, Kim Hunter, Barbara Loden, Sydney Pollack, Elia Kazan, Marvin Hamlisch) are dead and gone.