Movie stars are made to be watched but Charlotte Rampling seems at times to be watching us back. She has one of the most distinctive and penetrating gazes in film. It reminds me of the look of an animal that is both wary and potentially predatory.
It’s a gaze that makes her seem perfectly in control. She is the military man’s daughter who has learned not to reveal too much.
Yet for someone seemingly so reserved she has taken on some alarmingly extreme roles. From a concentration camp survivor involved in a sadomasochistic relationship with her ex-Nazi guard in ‘The Night Porter ‘ to the delusionary widow of a drowned husband who refuses to believe her husband is really dead, even when she’s seen his decomposed body, in ‘Under the Sand’.
Odd choices for someone so seemingly cool.
‘The Swimming Pool’ a film that got so-so reviews but which I personally really liked plays with a contradiction that is at the heart of her as an actress.
She plays a writer who goes to her publisher’s house in the south of France to write her new thriller. Classically English, buttoned up, lonely and slightly distant she arrives at the supposedly vacated home to discover the wild child daughter is in residence. This sensual beauty played by the luscious Ludivine Sagnier proceeds to shag a series of considerably older men in front of the spinsterish writer.
Of course (spoiler alert) it turns out the hot young bikini clad thing was entirely a figment of the writer’s overly active imagination. She’s a creation the writer both desires and wants to be.
The film works beautifully to capture the torrid passion at the heart of Rampling, a passion that on the face of her cool exterior would be the last thing we would expect to find.
It’s probably the reason Rampling left her native England to live in France and escape the sometime stultifying restraint of my homeland.
In the documentary ‘Charlotte Rampling: The Look’ director Angelina Maccarone attempts to shed further light on the who, why and what of Charlotte by creating a ‘self-portrait through others’.
Rampling’s friends, the photographers Peter Lindbergh and Juergen Teller and the writer Paul Auster amongst others, all attempt to reveal something of the actress.
But all they succeed in doing is making Rampling seem even more unknowable.
Which is a relief because in the final analyze what makes any artist worth watching reading or listening too is our journey to try and understand them. The harder they are to define the more we come back and attempt the futile task of pinning them down.