One of the greatest film critics of all time, André Bazin, posed the question in the title of one of his books, ‘Qu’est-ce que le cinéma ?’ – ‘What is cinema?’ I believe that this question can be furthered in relation to an evergreen star of cinema; ‘What is cinema without actors like Charlotte Rampling?’
The actress in question may not be the greatest or most recognised over her period yet cinema would be a far less interesting place without her presence and uniqueness.
With that in mind, it brings great excitement to see the upcoming DVD release of Angelina Maccarone’s biopic, The Look. This is an extraordinary work which was warmly received at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and will be out on DVD release in the UK on Monday 30 April.
It centres on the aforementioned Charlotte Rampling, an actress the French label as La Légende. Now 65, this Essex-born actress remains an intriguing and fascinating on-screen presence, the most recent example being in Lars von Trier’s Melancholia. It is Rampling’s evocative facial expression that has influenced the documentary’s title; The Look – a term originally coined in reference to Rampling by two-time co-star, Dirk Bogarde.
Bogarde was once quoted as saying, “I have seen the Look under many different circumstances…the glowing emerald eyes turn to steel within a second, [and] fade gently to the softest, tenderist, most doe-eyed bracken-brown”. The duality of Rampling’s gaze, seen over several decades now, has been one of the great cinematic looks to appear on-screen.
The Look is not the most conventional of biographical documentaries, in part mainly due to Rampling’s influence and final say over all aspects of the project. The structure of the work is separated by eight themes chosen by the director and subject (Rampling): Exposure, Age, Resonance, Taboo, Desire, Demons, Death and Love.
Each section sees Rampling discuss an individual theme with people such as photographer Peter Lindbergh and author Paul Auster. Rampling travels the globe in search of friends and colleagues, going from London to New York to Paris, stopping off in cafés, hotel rooms and a houseboat.
She has clearly led an interesting life, much of which stems from her father’s decision (an army colonel who worked abroad) to place his two daughters in a French school when Rampling was only nine years old. The obvious language barrier made this experience a lonely one where it took her nine months before she could communicate with her fellow pupils.