Blu-Ray Review: Charlotte Rampling: The Look

The new documentary about the famed actress's life 'unabashedly shows off what a total and complete badass she is.'

Devon Ashbyby Devon Ashby


So Charlotte Rampling is pretty much a completely amazing force of nature that transcends her own existence as a human being, and in case you need any additional convincing about that, a new documentary entitled Charlotte Rampling: The Look is now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. Half biography and half impressionistic portrait, The Look explores Rampling’s career as an actress and model, elaborates some of her own ideas about the relationship between public image and reality, and unabashedly shows off what a total and complete badass she is.

Rampling began her career in the mid ‘60s as a model and actress, appearing in iconic British films like Georgy Girl and The Knack…and How to Get It. Branching out into newer, weirder territory as her career progressed throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, Rampling worked with a host of renowned filmmakers, from Francois Ozon to Nagisa Oshima to Woody Allen to Luchino Visconti, often deliberately seeking out provocative and controversial roles. She burlesqued the perversity of the Nazis with a famously grotesque striptease in The Night Porter, took a smack in the face from Paul Newman in The Verdict, and fell in love with a chimpanzee in notorious Japanese iconoclast Oshima’s Max mon Amour. In her off hours, Rampling cultivated relationships with the fine art world, modeling for and collaborating with artists like Juergen Teller and Frederick Seidel and pursuing a sideline career as a photographer.

In addition to highlighting how much cooler Charlotte Rampling is than you, The Look is a personal rumination composed from the perspective of someone who has lived her entire adult life in the spotlight, essentially by accident. Having been serendipitously discovered at a young age and gaining early fame and notoriety that has sustained her career ever since, Rampling has watched herself grow, age and evolve as an individual largely through the lens of outside observers, and her engagement with the act of image-making is at least partially a self-conscious confrontation with that lifestyle’s realities. Aside from its higher-minded observations about identity and perception, The Look offers a solid and compelling chronological overview of Rampling’s career. She’s a captivating subject, and the film’s presentation of her accomplishments is nuanced, jaw-dropping, and hilarious, even if you’ve never heard of her before.

The disc’s only drawback is its dearth of special features, although it does contain a stills gallery that’s pretty impressive. Some extended interview footage wouldn’t have been too much trouble, though, especially for a film so heavily laden with celebrity cameos. Even without such accouterments, however, the Blu-ray is basically a worthy purchase, as long as you’re prepared to spend several hours afterward researching and tracking down Rampling’s entire previous filmography.