Charlotte Rampling: The Look (2011)
Saturday, February 11, 2012, 7:20pm
One recent Christmas, I made a secret wish that God grant me the gaze of Charlotte Rampling, the diction of Genevieve Bujold, and the spectacular whatever of an as-yet-unidentified third older-woman crush (still looking). I sincerely hope someone someday makes a documentary of the ever-unfolding Bujold, but in the meantime, I’lll make due with “Charlotte Rampling: The Look”—a mesmerizing, if measured, documentary of the 1960’s starlet and current arthouse film cougar.
I’ve ony seen Rampling in her more recent work with Francois Ozon, so I couldn’t, even if I tried, bring to bear any of those earlier film provocations (“The Damned,” “The Night Porter,” “Max mon amour” ) to my assessment of “The Look.” And while I’ve read elsewhere that “The Look” disappointed some critics as to how little it revealed about Rampling’s private life, it’s a bit unfair, perhaps even depraved, to expect this level of intimacy just because Rampling has exposed herself so profusely as an actor (read: just because a woman is willing to get naked for the camera doesn’t mean she has to bare her soul). And perhaps we’re still living too much in the Old Historicism world, where personal biography is so often grafted onto artistic output, and vice versa.
Indeed, as oblique as Rampling comes off in “The Look,” there is no doubt as to the hold she has on the audience’s imagination and attention. At one point while in conversation with the photographer Peter Lindbergh, a moist, wayward brown speck of food can be seen latched onto her moss-gray silk charmeuse shirt. It just hangs there, like a sensual emblem of why Rampling has been so illuminating to me as an actress—she moves toward the dirt, grim, and detritus of human nature. There is a modern-day Rilke in her. This and the fact that she seems to have a penchant for mid-afternoon brownies, or maybe meatloaf.