“Exposure is huge, and once you put your foot in it, and it takes off, it’s quite a beast. It’s quite devouring, because you have to find a way that you are not invaded all the time by lenses and by people looking.” Charlotte Rampling.
Iconic screen siren Charlotte Rampling turns the camera on herself in a documentary from director Angelina Maccarone, following the actress as she reflects on her career through a series of conversations with friends and collaborators, including fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh. Charlotte Rampling: The Look explores musings on love and life from one of cinema’s biggest risk takers, intercut with footage from her most famous big screen roles, including Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories, François Ozon’s Swimming Pool, Sidney Lumet’s The Verdict, the1966 classic Georgy Girl and Liliana Cavani’s controversial The Night Porter, in which Rampling plays a concentration camp survivor who accidentally meets her Nazi tormentor in a Vienna hotel, where he’s now the night porter, and falls back into a sado-masochistic relationship with him. On a lighter note, there’s a clip from the not-so-famous 1986 oddity Max Mon Amour, where the actress becomes involved in a love triangle with a monkey. From one extreme to another, huh?
The documentary is split into eight thematic vignettes, including ‘Age’, ‘Taboo’ (where she revisits her infamous photo shoot with Juergen Teller – see it here as it’s a tad naughty), ‘Exposure’ (discussing how she appeared in a portrait for Lindbergh sans maquillage and retouching), ‘Love’ (where she reminisces over personal and nearly inscrutable feelings with friend and film director Cynthia Fleury), ‘Desire’, ‘Demons’, ‘Resonance’ and ‘Death’ – each revealing a small insight into her almost mythical status. Across her reflections we learn briefly what drove her to portray some of the most complex, deeply sexual and disturbed characters in cinema from the 1960s onwards. “Charlotte never disclosed her secret and now we live in a culture of confession that lacks secrets,” says Maccarone. “We tried to perform the paradox: Exposure without giving away the mystery.”
Rampling’s iconic status also propelled her to the ranks of elusive fashion muse to photographers like Helmut Newton and Irving Penn; and more recently to designers like Marc Jacobs, who paid homage to her character in The Night Porter in an A/W collection for Louis Vuitton.
Now 65-years-old, this documentary presents the veteran actress as a fiercely intelligent women, secure in her own skin and career choices – her longevity being testament to her talent – bypassing the film industry’s notorious age discrimination against women, appearing recently in Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia, and next year’s The Sea, based on the book by John Banville. Not bad for someone who openly admits that she only found fame as an actress solely on the basis of her appearance. That would be why Woody Allen fell under her spell in 1980 then, declaring her “the ideal woman” while on the set of Stardust Memories.
Her beauty is still as compelling today, with that sultry icy-grey stare and non-cosmetically enhanced skin, as is her attitude to ageing, which is both funny and brutally honest, “You wake up and you’re one day older. You either accept it or you don’t.” I’m thinking she won’t be doing a ‘Madonna’ and stuffing pillows into her cheeks then.
The film has screened in Paris and New York. A UK release date is yet to be announced. More information can be found at the Prounen Film website. Watch the trailer: