The unruly look of seduction
She traversed four decades of cinema guided by a talent that never fell ‘victim’ of her enchanting beauty, she took up artistic challenges that few in her position would have dared considering. From her dazzling debut in Georgy Girl in 1966 to the sex tourist of Vers Le Sud passing by the disturbing performance of The Night Porter, Charlotte Rampling refined her craft as an actress, not a beauty queen. Her legendary look – as impenetrable as penetrating – never complied with the cinematic convention whereby actresses have to passively surrender to the audience gaze. With feline elegance, Ms Rampling explored and pushed the limits of her performances instead of retreating in the safe haven reserved to ‘sex symbols’.
After having received an award during the opening ceremony, the British actress met the Locarno punters yesterday morning in a conversation moderated by Olivier Père, the artistic director of the festival. With affable grace, she went over her career sharing anecdotes, opinions and jokes of a life that saw her crossing the Atlantic and working with the masters of European cinema. Exceeding the insularity of British cinema and its prurient taboos, she worked with Visconti, Cavani, Cantet, Lumet and Von Trier among many others. Unassumingly sharing her acting life with professionals and onlookers alike, she held a pleasant conversation totally devoid of the toxic sludge of celebrity culture. The public met a person as opposed to a star, a delicate and delightful woman who refuses to mummify herself in a grotesque mask of plastic surgery and keeps shining as bright as ever.
Ms Rampling and her career elegantly defied the predatory urge that western culture has in commodifying everything, even the noblest of all attributes: beauty. To look at Charlotte Rampling’s today is to contemplate the fine divide between the experience of beauty and other forms of passion, an experience that transcends possession to reach out to ecstasy. The same ecstasy one experiences when seeing her on screen, attractive but never lascivious, confident but never arrogant. Immense: as immense as her career. A career, she pointed out, that tried to give back audiences a bit of their humanity instead of engaging in the deadly dance of self-obsession.
Celluloid Liberation Front