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    Under the Sand

    Sand and deliver

    "Under the Sand" delivers a spectacular and even sexy performance by veteran British actress Charlotte Rampling, who plays a French wife who loses her husband but won't let go.


    Ask me to name a Charlotte Rampling film off the top of my head and I'd be hard pressed to come up with one, save for Liliana Cavani's controversial 1974 film "The Night Porter" (in which Rampling made a bit of a name for herself by playing a concentration-camp survivor who resumes the sadomasochistic relationship with her former SS officer, played by Dirk Bogarde). But other titles do not as easily spring to mind. Strange, really, since Rampling has made over 50 films in her 35-year film career.

    Original title: Sous le Sable.
    Directed by: Francois Ozon.
    Written by: Emmanuelle Bernheim, Francois Ozon, Marcia Romano, Marina de Van.
    Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Bruno Cremer, Jacques Nolot, Alexandra Stewart, Pierre Vernier, Andree Tainsy.

    Related links: All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    One look at her latest film, Francois Ozon's "Under the Sand" (Sous le Sable), and you'll be wondering why she's not more of a household name.

    In the film, which pairs the oceanographics of Ozon's 1997 thriller "See the Sea" (Regarde la Mer) with the emotional turbulence of Liv Ullman's recent marital drama "Faithless" (Trolosa), Rampling plays a woman, an English professor, struggling to come to grips with the (assumed) death of her husband.

    Vacationing in the south of France, Marie Drillon (Rampling's given name as it so happens) and Jean (Bruno Cremer) head down to the beach one morning. While Marie remains sunbathing on the sand, Jean takes to the ocean, but the next time Marie looks up from her book, Jean cannot be found and is feared drowned.

    The film is cool and calculated and rather straightforward but every time Rampling's on display it seems better, somehow.  

    Marie is so devastated by the loss that she quickly falls into a pattern of self-denial, acting as though her husband of 25 years were still alive. This makes life understandably awkward for her friends, her family, and her future lovers.

    Ozon positively dumps the emotional weight of the film on Rampling's delicate frame and she's more than up to the task. Often without words, the 56-year-old British actress (who's still not afraid to do nude scenes) is able to convey a woman simply unable to face the loss of her beloved husband. Strangely enough, although Rampling's performance is second to none, the character of Marie, while convincing, remains emotionally remote. By denying her husband's demise, she quickly puts up a wall around herself, making it hard for anyone — and especially the audience — to relate on an emotional level.

      Under the Sand
    The director does, however, use an interesting technique in showing us Marie's inability to accept the truth: Jean appears as an entity, a living, breathing human being in Marie's lonely Paris apartment, even though it's clear he's merely a figment of his wife's hopeful imagination.

    "Under the Sand" is an interesting film in that slow, talky, Mediterranean way, in which little happens in terms of plot development but a lot happens in the mind and motivations of its central character. It's cool and calculated and rather straightforward but every time Rampling's on display it seems better, somehow. "Under the Sand" may be the impetus she needs to stage a comeback, much like what Terence Stamp did with "The Limey," or what Ben Kingsley, another "forgotten" actor, seems to be shooting for with the upcoming "Sexy Beast."

    Only time and talent (of which Ms. Rampling appears to have acres) will tell.

    JUNE 17, 2001

    Reader comments on Under the Sand:

  • Comment on Movie   from Anna, Feb 12, 2002
  • sous le sable - location   from frances butcher, May 12, 2002
  • Sous Le Sable   from Audrey-Anne, Sep 3, 2002
  • Great Film!!!   from Al Bowman, Apr 27, 2003
  • Re: Great Film!!!   from Nancy, Nov 18, 2003

  • Post a comment on "Under the Sand"