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The Look: Charlotte Rampling, A Self-Portrait Through Others - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
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The Look: Charlotte Rampling, A Self-Portrait Through Others
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Directing: B-
Writing: C+
Cinematography: B-
Editing: C+



Watching a documentary like The Look is a bit odd for someone like me, with only a cursory familiarity with Charlotte Rampling. The woman has been around and working for over forty years, but I really only know her as an older woman, from movies like Swimming Pool (2003) and Never Let Me Go. It's immediately apparent to the otherwise ignorant that Rampling is a lovely actress, but The Look relies heavily on a shorthand shared by people far more familiar with her entire body of work.

And that's really the problem. It seems a film like this should offer some insight into the woman for those of us who might not know her very well. I'd love to learn more about her. But this so-called "Self-Portrait Through Others" doesn’t actually tell very much. Instead, it's broken into sections in which Rampling waxes philosophical on different specific topics in turn: "Exposure"; "Resonance"; "Death"; "Love"; etc.

In each one, she has a conversation with another artist -- a fellow actor, a photographer, a novelist, whatever. In one case she peruses and discusses some shots from a relatively recent photo shoot in which the semi-plump male photographer posed nude with her, but in most cases she was clothed. If anything proves that art is subjective, it's these photos. I certainly didn't get it. Apparently someone bought the entire set and had them hung in their living room.

The Look grows fairly tedious quickly, within the first topic of conversation: "Exposure." Rampling discusses how she feels about the nature of exposure in her profession. She gives the sense of long experience with attempts at invading her privacy. She's talking to another photographer, and they decide to turn the tables and have her take a portrait of him. I got the sense that each person she had conversations with were well known in at least some circle or another, but I was familiar with none of them, and it hardly mattered. In this case, the footage of them playfully turning the tables on each other just went on too long. The same was the case in the segment in which she engages in an acting exercise with the director of a film she's to be working on.

In each case, there are clips from movies Rampling has done, old and new. In one scene, she's with Woody Allen. In another, she gets slapped by Paul Newman. These provide only a semi-historical context, giving a sense of a rich cinematic history but with no specifics. Evidently she once costarred with a chimp, and her character gets caught in bed with it. Whether or not the nature of her relationship to the animal was platonic was not made clear; this was one of her many movies I had never heard of, let alone seen.

Rampling is a charismatic personality, that much I can say. When she talks about her craft, many of the things that come out of her mouth would sound ridiculously pretentious coming from just about anyone else. Somehow she comes across as genuine, and never annoying about it. She does seem like a person with whom a lively conversation could be quite fun.

It just doesn't make for all that great a movie. At least not if your knowledge of Rampling's work is as limited as mine was. I expected more. The Look makes a valiant attempt at being organized, but it still comes across like a bunch of footage of an actress and her friend hanging out, which was then edited together with an ultimately failed attempt at cleverness. Maybe two thirds of the way though I wondered how much longer it would be until the end. That's never a good sign.

the look charlotte rampling


Overall: C+
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