Why is Charlotte Rampling a living legend ?
A smouldering icon of French cinema and muse at the house of Loewe this season, Charlotte Rampling is as fascinating as ever. At the glamorous age of 70 her myth is as subversive as it is enchanting.
Big screen muse
When looking back at the career of this intoxicatingly beautiful woman, the word ‘audacity’ instantly springs to mind. It was indeed audacity that saw her star in Liliana Cavani’s Night Porter where she portrayed a Holocaust survivor who falls in love with her SS persecutor. She would go on to play this role of this femme fatale on several occasions, broken, neurotic and obsessive. So much so she was seriously questioned by critics when in 1985 she starred as a woman whose lover is a chimpanzee in Nagisa Oshima’s Max mon amour. In an interview with Numéro in 2000, she explained this versatility: “There’s a call and I have no choice. There’s an interior movement, inside my body, which makes me accept. The fear of what people might think only comes afterwards, every time.”
In an industry where actors are increasingly nervous and minimise risk-taking, Charlotte Rampling’s overt sense of daring and experimentation never wavers.
An audacity with her choice of films and directors but also with her acting, rewarded with an Honorary César for her life’s work in 2001. The ultimate accolade for a career some consider unrivalled and which alternates between great movie moments such as her mind-blowing performance in François Ozon’s Under the Sand, and more debatable roles like Dr Evelyn Vogel in the final season of the series, Dexter. In an industry where actors are increasingly nervous and minimise risk-taking, Charlotte Rampling’s overt sense of daring and experimentation never wavers.
Sometimes nude, often black and white, rarely smiling, the utterly assumed sexuality of the actress gradually came to life through photos.
From Helmut Newton to Juergen Teller: an aura caught on film by the masters of photography
Legend has it at the beginning of her modelling career, Charlotte Rampling was asked by her agent to have an eyelid lift. They were met with a categorical refusal on the actress’s behalf who perhaps suspected her incandescent gaze could seduce some of the greatest photographers from Helmut Newton and Peter Lindbergh to Juergen Teller. Sometimes nude, often black and white, rarely smiling, the utterly assumed sexuality of the actress gradually came to life through photos. And in a completely timeless manner, whether it be the 1973 shot by Helmut Newton at the Nord-Pinus II Hotel in Arles where muse Rampling sits naked on a wooden desk, legs slightly open, wearing only the most defiant of looks, or in the series Le Louvre dating from 2009 and taken by the ever subversive Juergen Teller who caught the actress nude once more posing on front of the Mona Lisa devoid of any aesthetic or erotic spirit.
She went from the set of Yves Boisset’s Un taxi mauve to Woody Allen's Stardust Memories.
The Jean-Michel Jarre years: a myth always sounds better as two
Alain Delon and Romy Schneider, Romain Gary and Jean Seberg or Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni, a myth always sounds better as two and Charlotte Rampling didn’t err from this rule. In 1976 she met France’s electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre. In just a few months they were to become one of the most talked about couples of the era. He transcended the 70s with his first album Oxygène which sold 18 million copies while she went from the set of Yves Boisset’s Un taxi mauve to Woody Allen's Stardust Memories. Their relationship lasted 20 years nourishing every one of the public’s fantasies. And in spite of their split, they were never far from one another and their respective projects: the exhibition held at the Maison européenne de la photographie, Charlotte Rampling – Albums secrets in 2012, was accompanied by a sonic installation by Jean-Michel Jarre, who was also present at the opening night.
We’re not surprised to see her aged 70 as the muse of fashion house Loewe, starring in the spring-summer 2017 campaign.
From the shadow into the light, and back again…
Charlotte Rampling has always maintained the utmost discretion. Complete silence for five years between films, retreats in Tibetan monasteries or in the depths of Afghanistan, the release of an album of songs entitled Comme une femme, this 20th century icon does exactly as she pleases while keeping the media at arm’s length. In the documentary The Look, all about her, the actress talks about this exposure like an “invasive beast one must learn to tame.” We’re not surprised to see her aged 70 as the muse of fashion house Loewe, starring in the spring-summer 2017 campaign. Bold photos with the actress as a sort of Lady Macbeth draped in Loewe ready to conquer new territories. By choosing her Jonathan Anderson seems to have grasped a fundamental notion, that the Rampling legend can only reinvent itself.
By Chloë Fage