Under the Sand

on May 04, 2001 by Jordan Reed
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   In the beginning of Francois Ozon's "Under The Sand," all seems right with the world as Marie (Charlotte Rampling), a British-born professor living in France, and her husband Jean (Bruno Cremer) make the annual pilgrimage out of the city to their seaside summer home. Marie relishes the domestic tranquility their long relationship has borne--lazy days at the beach, simple pasta dinners, and nights in front of the fire. But all her bliss gets brutally wiped away when Jean never returns from an ocean swim and, after days of searching result in failure, she is forced to head back to Paris alone. As time goes on and Jean remains missing, Marie invents a comforting but stagnant world of denial where he is waiting for her when she gets home and their relationship continues. When concerned but helpless friends set her up with the attractive and attentive Vincent (Jacques Nolot), Marie's state of delusion threatens to ruin any chances for her future happiness.

   Ozon's film crackles with sound, as if he wove a small microphone into the bristles of a brush traveling through hair and affixed another to the underside of a piece of toast being scraped by a butter knife, intensifying the offhand reverberations of everyday life to underscore Marie's psychological departure from it. And it's her departure that calls attention to the movie's unnerving central issues: When tragedy has struck but the final outcome remains even remotely in question, how long do we hold out for a miraculous resolution before moving on? And is it even possible to do so?

   Rampling carries "Under The Sand" with her assured turn as the dolefully loyal Marie, whose sometime indignant refusal to face facts and obvious fear of letting go elicit both intense pity and fist-shaking frustration. She's an understandably shaken woman who possesses all the facilities to recover from such a wrenching blow, but in her distress obstinately refuses to take the necessary steps toward healing.    Starring Charlotte Rampling, Bruno Cremer and Jacques Nolot. Directed by Francois Ozon. Written by Francois Ozon, Emmanuele Bernheim, Marina De Van and Marcia Romano. Produced by Olivier Delbosc and Marc Missonnier. A Winstar release. Drama. French-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 96 min.

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