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Fox Lorber presents
Under the Sand (Sous le sable) (2000)

"He went swimming and I lost sight of him..."
- Marie Drillon (Charlotte Rampling)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: December 24, 2001

Stars: Charlotte Rampling, Bruno Cremer, Jacques Nolot
Other Stars: Alexandra Stewart, Pierre Vernier, Andrée Tainsy, Maya Gaugler, David Portugais
Director: François Ozon

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, mature themes)
Run Time: 01h:32m:01s
Release Date: December 11, 2001
UPC: 720917530628
Genre: foreign


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ BB+B+ C+

DVD Review

Actress Charlotte Rampling has made an eclectic collection of films during her career, which dates back to her first TV appearance in The Avengers episode The Superlative Seven. British born and raised, her modeling career gave way to starring in film, with her second feature, Georgy Girl, bringing her to attention opposite Lynn Redgrave. After starring in Luchino Visconti's The Damned (1969) she would go on to play opposite Sean Connery in John Boorman's Zardoz, but her defining role was as a concentration camp survivor who is reunited with the SS guard (Dirk Bogarde) she had carnal relations with in The Night Porter. Whether opposite Woody Allen (Stardust Memories) or Paul Newman (The Verdict) Rampling is a formidable actress, capable of a full range of dramatic and comedic performances. Sous le sable (Under the Sand) marks a comeback of sorts, under the direction of Franois Ozon (Les Amants criminels aka Criminal Lovers). She delivers a rich performance in this interesting character study which earned her and Ozon accolades with nominations for Best Actress and Best Director from the European Film Awards .

Jean (Bruno Cremer) and Marie Drillon, married for 25 years, head off for their annual vacation at a house near the beach in the south of France. Their relationship is one of intimate familiarity, if not overly passionate. The journey is quiet and routine, as is the setting up of their vacation house. They make their way to a secluded area of the beach, popular with nudists due to its lack of excess traffic. Here, Marie decides to sunbath, while Jean goes for a swim. When Marie wakes up some time later, her husband is nowhere to be found. Those on the beach know nothing of his whereabouts. Panicked, she races to the lifeguard station and a search is mounted, but there is no sign of Jean. He has vanished without a trace. She closes up the house and heads home.

We next see her at a dinner party, where her mention of her husband in the present tense gets worried reactions from her friends. Here she is introduced to Vincent (Jacques Nolot), who takes an immediate attraction to her. Her fantasies combine him with her husband, and eventually she agrees to go out with him, but their shared passion is one dimensional, as she does not share his attachment. Her obsession with her lost husband is ever present, though she does not recognize that he is no longer with her—or is he?

Ozon constructs a story which keeps the audience unsure of what is really transpiring, as Charlotte Rampling's character is unable and unwilling to accept that her husband may be dead. Rampling is exquisite in her portrayal of this woman; as a respectable and scholarly figure she seems perfectly intact, except that she can't face that her husband is no longer with her—we don't know if she's crazy, or if in fact the audience is being fooled into something else. Even as more evidence mounts to cement our interpretations, there is a gray area that is not fully resolved, we can never be quite sure we really know what has happened.

The cinematography is used primarily to support the performance, with few scenes being real showcases for style, which makes them stand out the few times they are fully utilized. The film is centered firmly on Rampling's complex embodiment of her character, and as such does a magnificent job of relaying her otherwise normal existence with the illusions she carries with her. Her love scenes are handled tastefully. This is not a film of action, it is one of contemplation, where the unknown fate of the husband is hanging over the entire piece—where did he go, is he dead or did he wander off? The questions hold our interest, and drive Marie's existence. Her fantasies compound our confusion, whether erotic or simply menial. It is an interesting film, and though it will prove challenging to many, Rampling's performance is incredible and in itself worth the price of admission.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Under the Sand is prented in 1.85:1 anamorphic. Image quality is quite good, with reasonable color fidelity, a clean image and little edge enhancement. The film was shot on both 35mm and 16mm, so the smaller stock yields a bit more grain, though it is rendered naturally. Some segments are somewhat on the dark side, though this is primarily due to the lighting used. For the most part this looks quite good, though darker ranges tend to be less distinguished in many places.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English/Frenchno


Audio Transfer Review: Audio options include French stereo or French 5.1. There is some English smattered throughout, though it is fairly infrequent. While the 5.1 track offers more in the way of envelopment, I found the foley to be calling too much attention to itself, with the stereo track sounding more natural. I would note that this disc starts the film automatically, and on my player that meant there was no audio playing. This necessitated going to the set-up menu, which is required even if only selecting subtitles.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Franois Ozon
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Interview with Charlotte Rampling
Extras Review: There are two major extras included here. First is feature length commentary by director Franois Ozon and his co-writer Emmauelle Bernheim, which is in French and has optional subtitles available. Ozon discusses the locations, and the usual production aspects of the film, but also adds many of the unused ideas and scenes that were discarded either while shooting or during editing, and the effect they had on audience perception. Ozon speaks rapidly, which necessitates many of the subtitles for the commentary to appear on screen long before any talking takes place, and since there are two participants, dialogue often appears before either person has spoken. Even placing the subtitles early doesn't fully allow them to keep up with what is being said, as some phrases are not on screen long enough to read in their entirety. Quite interesting despite the difficulty with the translation.

We also get a recent interview with star, Charlotte Rampling, discussing her return to film, and the uncertainty of whether a project such as this one will be well received. It is nice to have her comments here, and this feature runs 08m:xxsThere are two major extras included here. First is feature length commentary by director Franois Ozon and his cowriter Emmauelle Bernheim, which is in French and has optional subtitles available. Ozon discusses the locations, and the usual production aspects of the film, but also adds many of the unused ideas and scenes that were discarded either while shooting or during editing, and the effect they had on audience perception. Ozon speaks rapidly, which necessitates many of the subtitles for the commentary to appear on screen long before any talking takes place, and since there are two participants, dialogue often appears before either person has spoken. Even placing the subtitles early doesn't fully allow them to keep up with what is being said, as some phrases are not on screen long enough to read in their entirety. Quite interesting despite the difficulty with the translation.

We also get a recent interview with star, Charlotte Rampling, discussing her return to film, and the uncertainty of whether a project such as this one will be well recieved. It is nice to have her comments here, and this feature runs 8m:47s

The film's theatrical trailer is also available, as are filmographies for Charlotte Rampling, Bruno Cremer, Jacques Nolot and Franois Ozon.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

A defining performance by Charlotte Rampling holds this tale of loss and denial together. The resolution is old world French cinema in its ambiguity, and the nature of the film will frustrate less tolerant audiences, but those with a taste for character study should find themselves rewarded.

 


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