Pool, The: By Chris Smith

Sundance Film Festival (World Premiere Dramatic Competition)–One of the weirdest and most original entries at this year's dramatic competition, Sundance vet filmmaker Chris Smith's “The Pool” should divide film critics and audiences, for here is a U.S. indie, financed by American money yet set entirely in Panjim, Goa.

Filmed on location in India, “The Pool” stars one of Indias most notable actors, Nana Patekar, as well Ayesha Mohan and newcomers Venkatesh Chavan, Jhangir Badshah and Malcom Faria. Working in Hindi with young actors in a country obviously not his own, Smith has made a quirky and poignant portrait, shedding light on the gap between rich and poor, a recurrent them in his U.S. set features, both fictional and documentary.

The only thing generic about the film is its title, “The Pool,” which is not particularly enticing even if it's accurate and precise. Smith tells the story of Venkatesh, a “room boy” working at a hotel in Panjim, Goa whose curiosity changes the shape of his future. One day, Venkatesh sees from his perch in a mango tree a luxuriant garden and shimmering pool hidden behind a wall. Not content simply to dream about a different life, Venkatesh become inquisitive and obsessively so about the home's inhabitants.

Like all of Smith's features, “The Pool” has a deceptively simple narrative and its subtext is just as significant as its overt text. It's not a particularly easy movie to watchor enjoyand a trimming of 15 minutes will improve the film's overall quality without damaging at all its coherence or integrity.

Smith, you may recall, received the Grand Jury Price for his 1999 documentary American Movie, which he preceded and followed up with a series of idiosyncratic features, such as “American Job” (1996), “Home Movie” (2001), and “The Yes Men” (2004).

With the exception of “Yes Men,” which was released by United Artists, few of Smith's films have been seen by a theatrical audience; the DVD technology has helped considerably this director in making his work more accessible.


Running time: 104 minutes

A Chris Thompson, Bluemark Production
Produced by Kate Noble
Screenplay: Chris Smith and Randy Russell.
Editing: Barry Polterman
Music: Didier, Leplae, Joe Wong
Creative Consultant: Xavier Leplae
Production Coordinator: Chris Thompson

Reviewed by S. Fink