The Look: Cannes 2011 Review

Les Films
Engaging doc reveals plenty of sweet Charlotte with little hush-hush.

Engaging documentary, directed by Angelina Maccarone, offers a revealing glimpse into Charlotte Rampling.

CANNES -- Throughout her nearly half-century career, actress Charlotte Rampling has rarely shied away from exposing herself onscreen. In the new bio documentary The Look, she bares it all yet again, but this time in a series of compelling discussions with different artists, writers, photographers and filmmakers. Following a premiere in Cannes Classics, look for this one in fests, scattered arthouses and on public TV.

Providing less of a standard biographical study than a free-wheeling tête-à-tête separated into heavily thematic chapters with names like “Demons,” “Desire” and “Death,” director Angelina Maccarone (Vivere) accompanies Rampling on visits to various artists-cum-friends, with whom she chats about her unique approach to working in front of the camera.

The fascinating opening segment, “Exposure,” has Rampling being photographed by Peter Lindbergh, until she turns the lens on him for a bit of role reversal. After a few glasses of wine (used often throughout the film), their conversation concludes with Rampling saying something that could sum up her career as a whole: “If you want to give anything worthwhile of yourself, you have to feel completely exposed.”

For those looking for ample proof of this, the “Taboo” segment with German photographer Juergen Teller will surprise some viewers who never saw the extremely raw photo series (Louis XV) the two did together in 2005. Their conversation drifts from that to Rampling’s early nude work with Helmut Newton, and then to her controversial portrayal of an S&M practicing concentration camp survivor in Liliani Cavani’s 1974 shocker, The Night Porter.

Other clips presented include scenes from Luchino Visconti’s The Damned, Sidney Lumet’s The Verdict, Nagisa Oshima’s Max mon amour and François Ozon’s Swimming Pool and Sous le sable. To describe her work in the latter, Rampling claims that “the best remedy for any form of pain is to let it happen to you,” and earlier on she makes brief reference to her sister’s suicide at the age of 23.

But beyond a few such personal details, The Look is much more of a cerebral rumination on the métier than any sort of trivia quiz, and it’s carried almost entirely by Rampling’s wit, intelligence and incredible screen presence. When she and Lindbergh joke about what a little plastic surgery would do to her face, we’re thankful that the 65-year-old star has chosen instead to age so gracefully.

Although technically apt, the documentary lacks titles to introduce each character, which is unfortunate for those viewers who won’t recognize artists like Teller or Anthony Palliser merely by their looks.

Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Cannes Classics)
Sales: MK2 International
Production companies: Prounen Film, Tag/Traum, Les Films d’ici
With: Charlotte Rampling, Peter Lindbergh, Paul Auster, Barnaby Southcombe, Juergen Teller, Frederick Seidel, Franckie Diago, Anthony Palliser, Cynthia Fleury, Joy Fleury
Director: Angelina Maccarone
Producers: Michael Trabitzsch, Gerd Haag, Serge Lalou, Charlotte Uzu
Directors of photography: Bernd Meiners, Judith Kaufmann
Music: Jakob Hansonis, Alex de Silva
Editor: Bettina Bohler
No rating, 94 minutes