Charlotte Rampling: The Look is not a typical documentary about
a famous actress. But Charlotte Rampling is not a typical character either.

A good friend of mine loves Charlotte Rampling. For her roles, her beauty and her approach to life. When I call her and announce that I am having an interview with Rampling herself, she asks me to take her with me because she wants to feel the actress’s amazing power on her own skin. When we meet with the actress in one of the restaurants in Warsaw on a Sunday afternoon, just before the screening of Charlotte Rampling: The Look during the PLANET+ DOC Film Fesitval, I immediately know what she meant. Strength. Whatever Lola Wants is running in the background and I have the feeling that Sarah Vaughan is signing about my interviewee. She is beautiful regardless of the passing time, independent, self-aware and aware of her femininity. She didn’t want to be just a pretty face so she quit modelling for acting. She resigned from Hollywood and chose difficult European cinema. Regardless of the criticism, she picked controversial roles and pushed the boundaries. In 1973 she posed naked for Helmut Newton. He asked her whether she wanted to try something new and she agreed. It is a special session, because the pictures taken were the first nudes by the photographer. Just like in the movie, she tells me about herself in her own way. No details from her life, names of her sons or lovers. Together with the director Angelina Maccarone, she decided to make a movie in a non-documentary style – divided into chapters. During the meeting, we decide to add a few more.


She realized early on that she was beautiful and started to take advantage of it. Beauty helped her gain roles and great popularity. In the 70s her face appeared on the covers of the French editions of Vogue and Elle. The film industry is relentless when it comes to actresses. When they are beyond a certain age, they simply stop being interesting. I ask her whether she has ever considered improving anything in the way she looks. ‘A long time ago I decided that I will not be a slave to my beauty. I knew that I was beautiful, interesting. It was a kind of a pact with myself. I said to myself: Ok, beauty was given to you, from your parents, but you have no influence on it, so stop thinking about it. When you are young such a pact is very important, it must be treated seriously. When I noticed that I was changing, I thought to myself: Fine, I am changing, I have accepted it and we will see what happens. You grow up with yourself, you follow yourself and you don’t fool yourself that you are younger, that you are someone else.’ She is 66 and still breathtaking. Classically beautiful with magnetic gaze, no plastic surgery or photoshop.


She tries not to look back and analyze. Maybe because of the things that she has gone through: the suicide of her sister, depression, her second husband’s affair, which she learned about from the press. She lives in the moment. She explains that when we are young we ask ourselves a lot of questions about who we are, how we should live, we are very critical in relation to ourselves, cruel. We are constantly judging ourselves, our choices. She used to be like this as well. So what has changed? ‘At some point you start to perceive yourself and the world differently. Your psyche changes. You stop approaching life so emotionally, you become calmer, more patient, tolerant and stronger, because emotions don’t absorb you so much anymore. You start to look at life with a distance rather than throwing yourself at it with great passion. Contacts with men are easier because you are able to accept more.’ If, however, she was to take a quick look at the past, she would see a job well done. She doesn’t make movie after movie, not to play her roles mindlessly. Sometimes, when emotions are too strong, she tells the director: ‘Stop, I can’t do it anymore’. Then she returns.


She likes to risk, to test people and different situations. But she provokes at work only. ‘I like working with people with a capital W, in a very intense way. Such a strong confrontation with a director and a subject allows me to move further and further away, both emotionally and physically’. She was never afraid to choose difficult roles. She even gave up Hollywood for them; she knew that she would be pigeonholed there. Has she ever gone too far? ‘You must be asking about The Night Porter. I have to admit that at the time I didn’t realize it would be such a controversial movie. On the other hand, if I want to do something I feel it very strongly, I don’t think about what others will say or what will happen later, what will be the effects of my decision.’


In Charlotte Rampling: The Look photographer Peter Lindbergh says: ‘You can be the reason why the director chose you.’ That has happened twice. Director Francois Ozon wrote the role of Sara Morton in Swimming Pool and Marie Drillon in Under the Sand especially for her. Is there any other role that she would like to play? She hopes so. But it doesn’t depend on her. Roles come from the outside. Directing? She thought about it but she believes that she doesn’t have the right personality. She is still too impatient, doesn’t like to guide people, to decide for them. Prefers solitude.  ‘Directing means staging the world and I don’t want to do this, I have enough many problems with the world as it is. Besides, I am terrified by the enormity of the organizational and administrative issues associated with being a director. My work gives me unlimited freedom; I don’t want to complicate that. I am saying this now; maybe in a couple of years I will change my mind…’


Fashion has never particularly interested her. She plays with it in films, in life she has a much more practical relationship with it. She choses clothes that make her feel good. Favorite designers? Yohji Yamamoto, Jil Sander, Comme des Garcons. She has never been particularly girly. In her closet, instead of evening gowns, we will find tuxedos from YSL and Dior. A portrait of her recently appeared in the Lizzie Garrett’s album – Tomboy Style. Beyond the boundaries of fashion. ‘I’ve chosen Charlotte not only because of her great style borrowed from men. Her portraits always emanate undeniable intelligence’ says Lizzie Garrett. What does Rampling say about this? ‘Yes, you can say I’m a tomboy (smile). The fashion for borrowing clothes from men’s closets actually started in the 70s. I always chose what felt most comfortable. It’s always been men’s shirts, pants. To feel more elegant I wear a jacket with it. I don’t spend too much time on fashion because I know that I have perfectly made clothes in my closet so why should I need more?’