It is a very interesting and quite different type of documentary looking at one of the most prolific and fascinating actresses of her generation — Charlotte Rampling. I was able to ask director Angelina Maccarone (Vivere) some questions (by email) as her film premieres here in the US.
Women and Hollywood: Why were you interested in making a film about Charlotte Rampling?
Angelina Maccarone: Charlotte is an outstanding actress. She dares to go really far in the choice of her roles and also in the way she embodies these unusual female characters. Trespassing on subjects that are not supposed to be touched upon by women, and by that becoming a role model for women of her own and subsequent generations.
WaH: How did you get her to agree to it?
AM: Charlotte wanted to see my films before she agreed to even meet me, which is understandable. And then she wanted to know what I had in mind. My idea to make a film WITH her and to listen to HER rather than to other people talking about her was an idea found appealing. And also my concept to have nine chapters in which I wanted to hear what she had to say about themes of life instead of chronologically giving facts, spoke to her. Throughout the whole process she had doubts if this could be interesting enough since she is not a vain person. But since it was so interesting to me to hear what she has to say, I slowly convinced her that it would be interesting for other people and for an audience as well.
WaH: It is a very different kind of film where her friends and colleagues share her story? How did you get the idea to make the film this way?
AM: If you want to get to know somebody you don’t ask other people: how is she? You talk to the person herself. And then you don’t ask about facts like “date of birth” or “profession of parents” but you talk about essential questions and themes in life. And this is what I was interested in, to get to know Charlotte through Charlotte. I also thought it might be good to witness her being with friends and hear how she talks about those subjects with the people who are close to her.
WaH: Please explain the title.
AM: I like the ambiguity of THE LOOK: it is active and passive at the same time, people looking at how you look and then as well your own view onto the world, how you look at it. And it is a famous quote by Visconti, who told her that all there is to know is found in Charlotte’s eyes, in her look.
WaH: What do you hope people learn about Charlotte Rampling from this film?
AM: The same as I did. I learned a lot about the acting profession and about life itself. About how those two are intertwined. Charlotte has a lot to say about each chapter of the film. Some are very basic for every human being, like LOVE, DEATH and AGE and some are closely connected to her, like TABOO and EXPOSURE. Every subjects is seen through her eyes and since she is warm, wise, witty and courageous, I believe we all can learn a lot from her experiences.
WaH: You make documentaries and features. What is the difference between the two?
AM: THE LOOK is my first documentary and I enjoyed the freedom of working within a small team. You have to react very quickly to not miss interesting moments. We were extremely flexible, were able to move from one “set” to another in no time since you work with what is given. I experimented with this way of working in my feature HOUNDED (aka PUNISH ME, German title: VERFOLGT.) But usually you have more people on a feature set than just Director of Photography and Sound Engineer. The differences between the two forms can be inspiring. I guess the fact that I came up with a different form of portrait for THE LOOK is due to my experience as a director of feature films. This mixture of staging and spontaneity.
WaH: What was the hardest part of making the film?
AM: To convince the producers who didn’t have any frame of reference for this different kind of documentary that it could work. When they saw the rushes of the parts of the chapters it was difficult for them to imagine the whole, and this cost me quite a lot of strength in order to stick to my concept.
WaH: What advice do you have for other female directors?
AM: Just keep on going and keep believing in your own original vision, no matter what odds you have to overcome. And especially don’t be stopped by your own fears.