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Under the Sand

Starring Charlotte Rampling
Written by François Ozon with the collaboration of Emmanuelle Ernheim and Marinade Van
Directed by François Ozon

IN SHORT: A story sunk by its subtitles. [Not rated. 95 Minutes]

In French, with subtitles.

The basic story of Under the Sand is simple, and it's one which has made its own place on American TV as well as on the big screens of France, where this take comes from. We start with one happy loving couple on vacation in the country. Choosing a deserted beach -- no life guards, lots of naked Germans -- for a getaway, Marie Drillon (Charlotte Rampling) takes a nap. Her husband Jean (Bruno Cremer) takes a swim. When Marie wakes up, Jean is gone. Never to be seen again. A panicked Marie reports the disappearance and despite, the help of friends, cannot fill the missing gap in her life. So she chooses not to, letting her mind do all the work to keep Jean's presence alive.

If we weren't spending so much time reading the subtitles, what director François Ozon attempts to do in his art school kind of way would probably have been clear to us. So we're going to spill the technique. After Jean's "disappearance," Marie continues with a relatively normal life. She dines with friends. They try to set her up with a single guy, Vincent (Jacques Nolot). After Vincent takes her home one night, Marie enters to find her apartment to find Jean waiting to inquire about her evening. When Vincent calls to ask Marie out, she asks Jeans permission.

No, the dude is decidedly dead. Marie hasn't accepted the event and this "creation" that keeps Jean in her life is how Marie deals with it. Ozon doesn't use any cinematic tricks or filters to visually clue us in that Jean is a ghost or mental fantasy, and the journey across the Atlantic doesn't help. We've seen enough movies with a faked death that we spent most of our time waiting for the other shoe to drop, which it doesn't. Under the Sand is a film meant to demonstrate the acting abilities of Ms. Rampling which, given our obvious confusion as to exactly what the heck was going on, we are unable to comment upon.

Marie's symptoms manifest themselves in totally normal ways. She goes through the "period of mourning"supported by her friends. One of them, Amanda (Alexandra Stewart), thankfully talks English and relieves us of the need to rely on subtitles. As life goes on, Marie returns to her work as a teacher, notices all the younger students and, no it's not what you think, mourns "I've lost my youth". All the while there is the very physical presence of Jean hovering around, watching everything that happens in the house. The first time Marie makes love, well, that's the first time we sense anything "human" going on in her character. Eventually reality rears its ugly head and Marie must confront the physical presence of Jean -- identifying a body found at sea in a fisherman's net. What she chooses to do, we will leave to be discovered by those who prefer arthouse fare.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Under the Sand, he would have paid . . .


Simply, if you speak French, you'll get much more out of Under the Sand than we did. But even beyond that, we were not enthralled with the pacing or emotional (lack of) peaks and valleys in the story.

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