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As in many previous years, Marie (Charlotte Rampling) and her husband Jean (Bruno Cremer) drive to their seaside cottage in the Landes region of Western France. A devoted couple, it seems, relaxed in each other's company. This summer, the holiday becomes a nightmare when Jean disappears on the beach, while Marie takes a nap. After the initial shock, Marie behaves unpredictably and her friends don't know what to do to help her.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A fugue of a film, an essay on grieving, an experiment with a simple idea; these are all valid descriptions of Francois Ozon's leisurely, poignant film which began shooting without a clear idea of how it would reach its ending. This doesn't show. In fact, it seems as if it had a very clear idea, namely to meticulously study the effects of Jean's apparent drowning on his wife. (Triggered, Ozon explains, by a similar incident he witnessed as a child - also at Landes.)

The question mark that hangs over the film gives it a mystique that saves the film from being totally self indulgent. So does Charlotte Rampling and Bruno Cremer - the latter having not much to do except provide a warm and cuddly presence. Her performance elevates the film to a level of interest that the material probably doesn't deserve.

The intrigue for Ozon is how a devoted wife tackles this unusual loss; she didn't see him go, and there is no body found. In the absence of such proof, she invents - subconsciously - a new reality for herself. Beautifully crafted, the film proudly paces itself at snail speed.

Review by Louise Keller:
I especially like the way this story begins. We meet husband and wife as they are driving to their holiday home. They share the comfortable silences that a long relationship enjoys. They stop on the way for a comfort break, and when they arrive they easily fall into a routine of a simple meal of spaghetti and reading in bed.

The film then takes a sharp U-turn. Like its central character, Marie, we are thrown into confusion and are unsure and unsettled by a changing reality. Charlotte Rampling is striking and totally compelling as Marie. It is not a glamorous role, and Rampling is unselfconscious and still very beautiful. She effects a great sense of self - we never are really sure what she is thinking, but we care and we would like to know.

It's a reflective film that explores issues truthfully and expressively. Soulful, melancholy music colours this portrait of mature love, in which Marie struggles with her response to circumstances.

How can she accept such a loss with no proof? How can she cope and how can she let go? Is it possible to make new friends and effect new beginnings? Or is she lost, a captive of her own world? Although the subject matter may seem morbid, the film is certainly not. It's intriguing.

There is one shocking scene when Marie visits her aged mother-in-law. A bloody battlefield with words, this exchange is the boiling point, when everything is too much. Poignant and filled with nuance, Under the Sand is an absorbing and thought provoking film. It may not provide any answers, but the journey offers its own pleasures.

Published November 18, 2009

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Sous le sable

CAST: Charlotte Rampling, Bruno Cremer, Jacques Nolot, Alexandra Stewart, Pierre Vernier, Andree Tainsy

PRODUCER: Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier

DIRECTOR: Francois Ozon

SCRIPT: Francois Ozon with Emmanuele Bernheim, Marina de Van, Marcia Romano

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jeanne Lapoirie, Antoine Heberle

EDITOR: Laurence Bawedin

MUSIC: Philippe Rombi


RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes




DVD RELEASE: November 18, 2009

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