El Refugio

A place on the web for escapism.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


As a genre, you'll be hard pressed to find a wide selection of flix relating to swimming/swimmers.  Nevertheless, here are three Four! SIX seven great films (and 2 books) worthy of note in this under-represented genre.


On a Clear Day (2005)    

Frank Redmond, a 55-year old Glasgow shipyard worker loses his job and seeks to find direction for himself. He develops his routine of swimming, and meeting with the guys. As much out of resolve as frustration, he decides to swim the Channel to France, and confronts his demons along the way. Great casting has Peter Mullan starring as Frank Redmond--he does an excellent job of portraying the quiet strength of will. IMDB Try finding it on dvd at Netflix; let me know if you find a streaming site.


An autobiographical film about the  true-life struggle of Anthony Fingleton to become an Olympic Swimmer. Directed by Russell Mulcahy.  Stars Jesse Spencer. Watch the Swimming Upstream trailer on  Watch the movie on Hulu.

From Wikipedia's Article on Tony Fingleton:
Anthony 'Tony' Fingleton is a former Australian swimmer. He won silver medal in 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. He had invitation to participate in 1964 Summer Olympics which he rejected and went to study in Harvard University. He remained in the USA after graduation and has become a screenwriter and movie producer, including the 1991 Rik Mayall film Drop Dead Fred.
His event was 220m backstroke.

 Watermarks (2004)
Watermarks is a documentary directed by Yaron Zilberman featuring women from the Viennese Hakoah swim team during the rise of fascism in 1930s Austria. The film describes the women's success as athletes leading up to the Anschluss of 1938 when the swimmers fled Austria to disparate locations in Palestine, England, and the United States. The documentary ends with some of the women from the swim team returning to Vienna sixty-five years later for a reunion at their old swimming pool.

On the look-out for swimming-related flix, I recently watched a "documentary" called Big River Man, featuring Martin Strel, an endurance swimmer from Slovenia. The movie, lauded for its "extraordinary blend of comedy and drama" documents his "big river" swim of the Amazon River in 2007.  Strel has earned the nickname "Big River Man" for his world-record long distance swims of the entirety of the world's largest rivers--the Yangtze, the Mississippi, the Amazon and the Danube--while drawing attention to the environmental (pollution) issues facing these big rivers. Swimming--being literally immersed in the rivers for many hours--exposes Strel not only to the rigors of long distances, but also to a myriad of river contaminants and pollutants of all kinds.
The Big
The Big Blue  - Le grand bleu (1988)
Jacques (Jean-Marc Barr) and Enzo (Jean Reno) are childhood friends who grow into fierce rivals in the deadly sport of deep-water diving. Jacques is more dolphin than man -- but that's not enough to keep insurance investigator Johanna (Rosanna Arquette) from falling head over heels for him. But can she keep him from risking it all to defeat Enzo and set a new world record? Luc Besson  directs. --Netflix
 Watch the trailer for Le Grand Bleu on Youtube.

Lynne Cox writes about her training as a young open water swimmer. She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2000 for Open Water swimming. Read about it at the ISHOF website.


Dangerous When Wet (1953)

A delightful film, complete with calisthenics and song routines. [Ordinarily, I dislike musicals, but if you're going to allow Tom & Jerry animations, then you might have to permit a song.] Swimming popularist Esther Williams starred in this light movie revolving around a farm girl who decides to swim the English Channel.  YouTube has an excerpt with the animated Tom & Jerry (with octopus) scene. And I liked Charlotte Greenwood, as Ma--she's quite a dancer as well!

Esther Williams really popularized the sport of water ballet in her movies. When she was unable to compete in the Olympics due to WWII, Williams worked
at the Aquacade with Johnny Weissmueller (whose movie greats also include Tarzan) (Wikipedia).  IMDb


Heart, The Marilyn Bell Story (2001)

After watching this movie, I read the Wikipedia article about about it, and was struck with the realization that the entire movie was written based on that article. Not a bad movie, it highlights the 1954 accomplishment of 16-year old Canadian, Marilyn Bell, who successfully swims Lake Ontario in a monumental 21 hour effort--WITHOUT GOGGLES!. Marilyn went on to swim English Channel and Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Solo Swims of Ontario Inc.  Hall of Fame devotes a web page to "Marilyn Bell: A Pioneering Canadian Marathon Swimmer". It notes that two books have been written about her Lake Ontario swim too:
McAllister, Ron (1954). Swim to Glory: The Story of Marilyn Bell and the Lakeshore Swimming Club.
Tivy, Patrick (2003). Marilyn Bell: The Heart-Stopping Tale of Marilyn's Record-Breaking Swim.


I am slowly reading Kathy Watson's book, The Crossing: The curious story of the first man to swim the English Channel [Pub. Headline, London, 2000]. Having less time for reading, but stubbornly trying not to plough through books, rather I try to take the time to enjoy reading. This is a good book for that.

No comments: