© Piffl Medien GmbH

Charlotte Rampling - The Look
Germany/France 2011

Opening 20 Oct 2011

Directed by: Angelina Maccarone
Writing credits: Angelina Maccarone

Charlotte Rampling, famous international film star and daughter of a British Colonel and a painter, began modeling and making commercials at 17, which led to film parts. It was her role in Luchino Visconti's 1969 The Damned (La Caduta degli dei) as Elisabeth Thallman, a young wife sent to a Nazi concentration camp, combined with her tragic and mysteriously sensitive aura that caused co-star Dirk Bogarde to coin her trademark “the Look”, that brought her notoriety. They were reunited in Liliana Cavani’s 1974-cause célèbre, The Night Porter (Il portiere di notte), but this time Rampling is a Nazi concentration camp survivor, Bogarde was a guard, and years later they are trapped in a sadomasochistic relationship. Avant-garde roles are Rampling’s pièce de résistance.

Angelina Maccarone wrote and directed Charlotte Rampling - The Look, a special interest biographical documentary. Admittedly, Rampling has led a full life, overflowing with fascinating collaborators, encounters, and artist friends, who come forward to peer into their relationship, and her psyche. The film is separated into chapters that reflect humans’ emotions, intercut with clips from notable films she has starred in as props.

Quotes from Rampling include:

EXPOSURE with Peter Lindbergh: “Exposure is huge. I never thought I’d either be an actor or a model or anything like that. It wasn’t something I desired. But once you put your foot in it, and I did put my foot in it very young, and it takes off, it’s quite a beast, it’s quite devouring. Because we have to find a way that you are not invaded all the time by lenses and by people looking … and by that.”

AGE with Paul Auster: “Age is a day in the life. You wake up and you’re one day older. And you either accept it or you don’t. If you accept it, your life is a bit easier.”

BEAUTY:“Beauty can’t be kept as it is. Nothing can be kept as it is. We’re constantly changing. In terms of being fashionable, non-fashionable, beautiful, or less beautiful, you have no control over that. When you talk about beauty fading, does it really fade? It just becomes something else. It can still be beautiful. But what doesn’t change is that sparkle that you find behind somebody’s eyes.”

RESONANCE with Barnaby Southcombe: “My nervous energy is limited. And I use my nervous energy on full force cause that’s how I like to work: completely, open, in a highly open, and collaborative and therefore quite dangerous way. I don’t want safety nets, I don’t want people to, you know, not let me really go as far as I can go.”

TABOO with Juergen Teller: “When we talk about death, is that a taboo? Because people don’t want to talk about it? People won’t accept it?” ... “It’s about society, taboos. Because, I mean, who says something is a taboo? What is a taboo anyway now? What does it mean?”

DEMONS with Frederick Seidel: “The best remedy for any form of pain is to let it happen to you, because you actually can’t resist it. It’s the resistance that is most painful of pain, either physical or psychological.”

DESIRE with Franckie Diago: “…(desire) is within you… a formidable tool.”

DEATH with Anthony Palliser: “I only think we live well because we know we’re going to die.”

LOVE with Cynthia and Joy Fleury: “I think for me love is about feeling safe with someone. It’s believing that you can deeply feel something with somebody else, whether it’s a friend, a lover, a husband, a child. I’m following a path, where I refuse to suffer all my life of the same things. And I want to be an independent person so that I can choose how to live my life.”

Organically emotions are unrestricted, hence unnecessarily we listen to Rampling repeat herself, her thoughts, such as talking about death as a taboo could have been in the Death chapter, or left out. Reiteration in turn influences the film’s timing: all the chapters could have been shortened. Disappointingly, the grand finale “Love” has Charlotte and two women friends sitting on a king-size bed chatting in French, with the white German subtitles against the light bedcover making them extremely difficult to read.

Most likely editor Bettina Böhler and Maccarone were too enamored by Rampling to hear the recurring nuances. Rampling’s assessment perhaps hints most at her controlled self-exposure: “With performing, it just needs to be something that happens as if, as if by magic, as if it’s had not been thought of. So that’s what I try to create in terms of how I come to perform in front of a camera, is that, it just happens. And I think I’ve led most of my life like that actually. It seems to work for me. And then I use my animal instinct and my animal intelligence to deal with whatever is gonna happen, whatever happens.” Much as I initially appreciated Rampling’s controlled self-evaluation with her select acquaintances, I tired of hearing her repetitions and, especially after the frustration of the last chapter’s subtitles, I was glad to leave the theatre and get some fresh air. (Marinell Haegelin)

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