Beauty is barely half her storyBy Stephanie Merry
Friday, Mar. 2, 2012
"The entertainment of cinema didn't interest me," Charlotte Rampling confesses during "The Look," a documentary featuring the actress's musings on topics ranging from desire to aging. This revelation seems apt given the talky, philosophical start of Angelina Maccarone's film. Thankfully, early inertia gives way to a revealing and enthralling portrait of the actress.
The documentary is divided into themes - demons, taboos and aging, among others - and each topic is illuminated through Rampling's conversation with another person, as well as archival footage from one of her movies. The first couple of elements, including "exposure," featuring photographer Peter Lindbergh, focus mainly on Rampling's admittedly compelling appearance. The British-born actress is undeniably lovely and, at a (purportedly) surgery-free 66, the epitome of graceful aging.
Fans of her work will no doubt dive right in, willing to drink up whatever Rampling offers up in the way of philosophical tidbits, including "the camera has to be your most intimate friend." But, despite the film's title, what makes Rampling so watchable isn't her look at all; it's her utter insistence on rebellion. The film certainly would have benefitted if this revelation had led the cinematic charge.
The movie hits its stride as it delves into the actress's unorthodox career path. After tackling the role of heartless party-hopper in "Georgy Girl," she starred in "Night Porter," which follows the sadomasochistic relationship between a concentration camp survivor and her former Nazi torturer. Rampling mentions that the movie was banned in Italy, and one film critic turned a movie review into a personal attack on the starlet's character. It didn't deter her from taking on controversial roles so much as teach her the art of barricading herself. She went on to star in "Max Mon Amour," in which her love interest is a chimpanzee.
Luminous yet stately, Rampling is hardly the stereotypical wild child. Yet one interlude reveals a photo shoot in which the intellectual artist co-starred with fashion photographer Juergen Teller, who is portrayed in the buff in some pretty shocking poses. This is not about being perverse, Rampling explains. The best art, she says, comes from facing fears and pushing boundaries.
While the final credits reveal the actress's banter partners and chosen movie clips, the duration of the film is less forthcoming. It's possible to glean some information through conversational circumstances, but the movie is devoid of captions or explanation. Interestingly, this tends to create less of a frustratingly in-the-dark feeling than an increased interest. It's a film that sticks with a viewer if only to impel further study of Rampling's friends and filmography.
Whether it's her unconventional beauty or curious role choices, the actress is often termed enigmatic. "The Look" succeeds in shedding light on the mysterious woman, and it turns out her beauty isn't just skin-deep but also fairly uninteresting.
But what's behind the heavily lidded eyes? That's another story - which the movie thankfully gets to. Eventually.
Contains nudity and strong language. In English, German and French with English subtitles.