Under The Sand
In Under the Sand, Francois Ozon once again shatters the sense of serenity usually evoked by unpeopled landscapes of beach, water, and relentlessly blue sky, replacing relaxation with menace and uniquely Ozonian sexual tension. As the Paris-born filmmaker demonstrated so stylishly in his 1998 chiller See the Sea, bucolic horror, in his ozone, is inextricable from bucolic happiness.
All the routines of their country-house holidays are undone one day when Marie (Charlotte Rampling) dozes on the beach under the lulling sun while her husband Jean (Bruno Cremer) goes for a swim: When she awakens, he’s gone. Vanished, without a witness to help the baffled police.
Marie isn’t able to mourn him as dead; the case remains open. What jams shut instead is her ability to grieve, to resume life alone, and, especially, to let a new man (Jacques Nolot) into her heart. Instead, although she resumes her old, brisk routines back in Paris, the non-widowed widow keeps Jean vividly alive by talking to him, and even by fixing his breakfast each morning.
Ozon specializes in dissecting the vulnerability, erotic longing, and garbled intentions with which people regularly rub up against one another, whether as intimates or strangers, and Under the Sand fairly vibrates with ambiguity. (Did Jean commit suicide? Did he just walk out on their marriage?) Marie doesn’t know what to believe, but Rampling, that magnificent, coolly alluring fiftysomething siren, manages to make all sides believable. Rampling looks her age, if women were allowed to age naturally in paradise, and she acts with a peppery restraint that suggests female wisdom, her sinewy grace intensified by the comforting solidity of Cremer’s easy girth. Coming on the heels of her concentrated performance in Signs & Wonders, Under the Sand marks a small Rampling revival, for which audiences who have been stuck on the exotic creature since The Night Porter in 1974 send up a cheer. B+
Under the Sand
Starring: Charlotte Rampling, Jacques Nolot