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Charlotte Rampling: The Look (Blu-ray Review)

8 Apr, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Street 4/10/12
Kino Lorber
Box Office $0.02 million
$29.95 DVD, $34.95 Blu-ray
Not rated.

When you’ve been told you’re beautiful your entire life — and you know it — as a model/actor you can afford  certain risks and liberties.

Enigmatic Charlotte Rampling does so with aplomb in Italian director Angelina Maccarone’s interesting documentary Charlotte Rampling: The Look, discussing a 40-year career that largely eschewed Hollywood box office — ignoring for a moment Basic Instinct 2 and Orca, among other superficial fare.

English born and fluent in French, Rampling — whose piercing eyes, cheekbones and intellect evoke images of Lauren Bacall and Katharine Hepburn — avoids the typical narrative format, focusing instead on a series of discussion topics such as beauty, aging, resonance, taboo and exposure with photographers, writers, poets, directors (her son Barnaby Southcombe) and actors with whom she has worked.

Always in control, Rampling at one point barks (in French) that the film crew keep its distance when revealing philosophical insight and vulnerability on a topic — despite admitting “there are no secrets anymore.”

Crisscrossing between locations in London, Paris and New York, Rampling bares snippets of her life (her sister committed suicide) and career — from playing an egotistical bitch in Georgy Girl (1966) to an ingénue in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories (1980) or an aging mystery writer with a penchant for lost lust in Swimming Pool (2003). It was playing a Nazi camp survivor who resumes a sadomasochistic relationship with an S.S. officer after the war in The Night Porter (1974) that at the time elicited the wrath of New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael, who called the role degrading to women, among other condemnations.

Rampling, now 66, remains circumspect on that role (trusting co-star Dirk Bogarde intuitively) and other career choices made as she maneuvers the final chapters of life’s catwalk.

“Quite often they will say about someone famous, ‘Are they nice or are they a monster’?” Rampling says. “I think it’s easier to be a monster.”

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