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Charlotte Rampling: The Look - Movie Review - 2011

The Actress Bares All

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Charlotte Rampling: The Look - Movie Review - 2011

Charlotte Rampling: The Look - Poster Art

Kino Lorber
Vulnerability. Exposure. Sensuality. These are key subjects under considerstion as Charlotte Rampling, sublimely wise at age 55, comments on her approach to performance, career arc and personal evolution, while looking into filmmaker Angelina Maccarone's camera for The Look, an insightful and intimate documentary profile of the revered actress.

Rampling is known for her 'look,' that famously penetrating gaze that eminates from her heavily lidded eyes, but in The Look, she's also looking deeply into her own psyche and that of other artists -- filmmakers, photographers and other performers -- with whom she's worked over the years.

A Series of Telling Conversations

Documenting conversations Rampling has with photographers Peter Lindbergh and Juergen Teller, writers Paul Auster and Frederick Seidel, filmmaker Barnaby Southcombe and others with whom she has collaborated on projects past, Maccarone captures a compellingly candid Rampling, a woman unafraid to reveal her innermost thoughts about herself, while remaining discreet about specific incidents in her life. She mentions her son and briefly discusses her young sister's suicide, but there is no mention of affairs of the heart, nor is there any behind-the-scenes tale-telling about what happened on set, other than comments about that which pertains to her own work -- her vulnerability, emotional exhaustion, and the thrill of balancing on the edge of different realities. Thus, the film avoids the stuff of standard biopics and becomes something of a philosophical declaration, presenting the essence of Rampling rather than her chronology. Maccarone's use of family photographs, archival footage and clips from some of Rampling's films creates for us enough of a sense of her background and lifestyle, and the fullness of her career, but there is no for-the-record voice over, nor is a time line established through the use of graphics.

Rampling in Eight Acts

Using white print on black intertitles, Maccarone divides the film into eight sections, each focusing on one of Rampling's conversations with one of her colleagues, and each dealing with a theme: exposure, age, resonance, taboo, desire, demons, death and love. Heavy subjects they are, but never handled in a heavy handed way.

When archival photos or footage are edited into each section's central conversation, Rampling's comments continue as voice over narration -- except when scenes from her movies are inserted, and we hear Rampling at play with Woody Allen, Dirk Bogard, Lynn Redgrave and other stars with whom she has shared the screen.

The movie clips are a great reminder of the fullness of Rampling's on camera career, but we also see her shooting photographs, even turning her lens on photographer Peter Lindbergh, leading him to experience for the first time what it feels like to be so scrutinized. Rampling enjoys his moment of enlightenment. She is obviously quite accustomed to being in front of a camera, and has learned to be self aware rather than self conscious. And, that's a characteristic she seems to apply to all aspects of her life.

Rampling, who has managed to escape the discriminating ageism moviemakers foist upon females, seems ageless. Speaking frankly, she remarks that people put her in movies because she was beautiful -- not as pretty as her sister, she says, but quite photogenic. She is beautiful and photogenic still. But she has an ego strong enough and sufficiently little vanity to care much about that. Her focus is, instead, on seeing where her humanity and life's great adventure will take her next. And, you've got to love her for that.

Craft-wise, The Look is as pleasing as some of the wonderful films excerpted within it. Cinematographer Bernd Meiners is a reassuringly non-invasive observer, and editor Bettina Böhler is a master of nuance and timing.

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Film Details

  • Title: The Look
  • Directors: Angelina Maccarone
  • Release Date: November 4, 2011 (limited theatrical release)
  • Running Time: 90 mins.
  • Parents Advisory: Content advisory for parents for nudity, language.
  • Locations: Paris, Germany, New York and elsewhere
  • Language: English and French, with subtitles
  • Distribution: Kino Lorber
  • Official Website
  • Trailer

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