By Michael Roddy
VENICE (Reuters) - The usually decorous Ralph Fiennes dances wildly around a swimming pool to a Rolling Stones tune while Tilda Swinton mostly whispers in the offbeat French-Italian film "A Bigger Splash" which had its premiere in Venice on Sunday.
Italian director Luca Guadagnino's remake of the 1969 French film "La Piscine" ("The Swimming Pool") about a vicious love triangle set on the Cote d'Azur, transfers the action to the Italian Mediterranean island of Pantelleria.
The setting is a cue for Fiennes' character Harry, a record producer, to unleash his inner satyr.
He flies unannounced into Pantelleria with his daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson) and barges in on his rock-star ex-girlfriend Marianne (Swinton) and her filmmaker lover Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts).
Cast here as a motor mouth, know-it-all extrovert, Fiennes is called upon to do a scene where he dances around a pool, solo and without speaking a word.
"I received this fantastic screenplay...and about 20 minutes into the film it's written that he (Harry) gets up and dances and expresses himself completely through dancing," Fiennes told a news conference.
"I've never been asked to do that in a film before so I said, 'Yes, thank you'," Fiennes, who also danced briefly for photographers, said.
Swinton, who was directed by Guadagnino in "I Am Love" (2009), said at first the timing was not right for her to do "A Bigger Splash."
When it became possible, she suggested her part should be a mostly non-speaking role, which is why her character Marianne is convalescing from a throat operation.
"It was a moment in my life when I really didn't want to say anything, even less than I do now, but I sort of figured (it) out against wanting to be with Luca in pretty much any circumstances, wanting to go to Pantelleria and wanting to play with these extraordinary performers," Swinton said.
The film received mixed notices from the trade press. The Hollywood Reporter said it benefits from a "cool and desirable cast" but "feels empty and intellectualized at the core, where it should feel powerfully emotional".
Variety praised Fiennes, even though it said viewers might want to strangle his character the minute he shows up on screen.
"Sustaining such obnoxiousness is a harder feat to pull off than one might imagine, and though this isn’t a typical awards-seeking performance from Fiennes, it certainly ranks among the actor’s best," Variety said.
The film is among 21 competing for the Lion d'Or top prize to be awarded on Saturday.
(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)