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Charlotte Rampling makes a stop at Eisenberg’s in charming documentary (photo © Angela Maccarone)

CHARLOTTE RAMPLING: THE LOOK (Angelina Maccarone, 2011)
IFC Center
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Thursday, November 3, $20, 7:00

Born in Sussex in 1946, model and actress Charlotte Rampling has made more than eighty films in her highly distinguished five-decade career, carefully choosing intelligent, challenging projects, never resting on her many laurels. As gorgeous as ever in her mid-sixties and well known for appearing nude in numerous films, some as recent as just a few years ago, Rampling’s most striking feature is not necessarily her body, her high cheekbones, her bare feet, or her dark hair. Instead it is the Look, the strong, powerfully emotional gaze that can hit you from all sides — it can terrify you as well as melt you, making you fall in love with her over and over again. Angelina Maccarone’s unusual but fascinating documentary Charlotte Rampling: The Look begins by focusing on that look, as seen in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories and portraits taken by Peter Lindbergh. In a section titled “Exposure,” Lindbergh and Rampling talk about the photo sessions they had together, two old friends informally reminiscing about the good old days, never hesitating to make sly cracks about their current age. It’s a wonderfully intimate way to start this unique biography of Rampling, subtitled “a self portrait through others,” one that never delves into her personal life, her two marriages, her children, her ups and downs, her parents — instead, Maccarone divides the film into nine parts, each one concentrating on a specific film and most of them pairing Rampling with a friend, a member of her family, or someone she has worked with. For “Age,” Rampling goes for a ride on a tugboat with author Paul Auster, with clips from Luchino Visconti’s The Damned. In “Resonance,” Rampling sits in a boxing ring with her son, director Barnaby Southcombe, supplemented by scenes from Silvio Narizzano’s Georgy Girl. Things get rather risqué as Rampling is joined by photographer Juergen Teller to discuss “Taboo” and Liliana Cavani’s The Night Porter. The topic turns to “Death” as Rampling visits painter Anthony Palliser, along with clips from François Ozon’s moving Under the Sand. Maccarone slyly adds one last section, ending not with “Death” but with “Love,” and even then she avoids the obvious, teaming Rampling with Cynthia and Joy Fleury and showing scenes from Nagisa Oshima’s Max, My Love, in which Rampling falls for a chimpanzee. Through it all, Rampling is neither egotistical nor self-effacing, as she travels from London and Paris to Times Square and Coney Island, speaking poignantly and intelligently — and with a wry sense of humor — about her philosophy of life and the meaning of her career, never becoming didactic, pedantic, or vain. Charlotte Rampling: The Look is a lovely portrait of a beautiful, successful woman who isn’t afraid to look back at where she’s been — and look ahead to where she’s going. Charlotte Rampling: The Look is screening November 3 at 7:00 as part of the Special Events section of the Doc NYC festival, which continues at the IFC Center through November 10; director Maccarone and star/subject Rampling are expected to attend. The film opens theatrically on Friday at Cinema Village and Lincoln Plaza Cinema.

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