Bold and Beautiful
(Entertainment Today, 2002)
by Brent Simon
Screen legend Charlotte Rampling talks about her career and her new film, François Ozons Under the Sand
Those familiar with the best of international cinema over the past several decades are familiar with Charlotte Rampling. After garnering attention in Luchino Viscontis The Damned and other movies, 1974 proved to be a breakthrough year for Rampling; she appeared in the trippy, high profile sci-fi tale Zardoz, opposite Sean Connery, and, more memorably The Night Porter, where she played a concentration camp survivor reunited with her Nazi tormentor, played by Dick Bogarde. Moved by her bold characterizations and willingness to bare herselfspiritually, emotionally and otherwiseesteemed directors like Woody Allen, Sidney Lumet and Alan Parker went on to cast her in Stardust Memories, The Verdict and Angel Heart, respectively.
After several years under the radar, Rampling pops up in two movies this spring, Jonathan Nossiters recent Signs & Wonders and François Ozons Under the Sand, which opens next week. In Sand Rampling plays Marie, a woman who goes on vacation with her husband (Bruno Cremer) only to have him disappear when she dozes off. Though left with all sorts of unanswered questions, Marie for a long while tries to pretend her husband is still alive, but eventually must come to terms with redemption. Before heading off to Cannes to promote the film, Rampling spoke via phone with Entertainment Today recently.
First, whats it like at Cannes and other festivals, going there with a film?
Well, Cannes is sort of a special one. Cannes has got some magic about it, although theres lots and lots and lots and lots of people. Everyone is there, everyone wants to be there. I dont know whether everyone wants to put their film there, because it can be pretty devastating [to be] devastatingly criticized, thrown out with the dishwater. But theres a great excitement about the festival, its glamorous still. Theres a glamour about it, with the red carpet and the crowds and going up the stairs. For us in Europe its almost the only thing that we have on that sort of scale of glamour.
I wanted to ask you about Angel Heart, which had quite an impression on myself and many other cinephiles. What are your memories of the film and what was it like working with Alan Parker?
Well, New Orleans is quite spooky, really. And the whole film had a spooky feel to it. Alan Parker is definitely not spooky, hes a fabulous director, definitely an actors director I think Micky Rourke is wonderful in that film, and he kept Micky really, you know, on edge and just right. I think Micky needs that, and probably hasnt had enough of that recently. And it was such a fascinating screenplay, very weird. And it was just sort of one of those that really worked wasnt it? It did deliver, as they say.
How did you first come to be involved in Under the Sand?
It was François Ozon, who came to see me without a scriptwithout anythingjust an idea about this husband and wife, married 25 years, who go to their house in Milan, go to the beach and the husband disappears. And in fact why it was haunting him was that François had witnissed this scene when he was little on the beaches, he had witnessed this woman and her husband coming there every day and then the husband disappeared. So he wanted to [capture] that.
Was there any initial trepidation or pause in working him, given the slightly atypical first contact, that that he was essentially pitching an unfinished product?
Well, I saw all the work he did until then. Hed done a considerable amount of work, shorts and three features, and I thought he had a very particular vision of the world, so once you have that kind of feeling about someone, then its all risky anyway. But youve got to have that gut feel and just really want to go to the end of the Earth for that person and the film, and the role. You have to get into a heightened state of desire to get through it all.
How would you describe Ozons style? He achieves a rather eerie, measured calm.
I dont know how he does it because [in the film] everything seems to be going sort of fine, but you have this rising anxiety that somethings going to go wrong. Its like hes got this hidden unconscious world that you think is going to leap up and overpower you. [As a director] hes very lucid, very calm, he knows what he wants. Hes very luminous, he never loses his temper, he just knows what hes doing. He doesnt analyze things, theres not lots of explication; if you want explication, youll get as much as you want, but he doesnt just offer them, he doesnt like the whole psychobabble of finding motivations and this that and the other. He just knows what hes doing, and is always right.
I was fascinated with a slight parallel between Under the Sand and Signs & Wonders, namely the very unsexy and unpopular notion of romantic interchangeableness. Its dealt with more explicitly in Signs, but each character seems to be struggling in some way with the notion that loved ones can really, to a degree, be replaced.
Its so spooky but its true. Yes, its almost like the Marie character doesnt want to accept the fact that anything is wrong, but something isor waswrong in the relationship, theyre just not talking about something.
Signs & Wonders was done first, right?
Yes, that was prior, done in Greece. And we took it to Berlin wheretalking about festivals, how in Cannes you can get kind of blastedI think thats what hurt Signs & Wonders too. It got one or two sort of iffies and had a hard time. I think its a fine film. Im delighted to have made it and I think Jonathan Nossiter is a huge talent.
Under the Sand was also atypical in that there was a break, right?
The first segment was filmed. We then broke while François wrote the story, and then we were supposed to film three months later but because of money it became five months.
Did that break present any special challenges for you as an actor?
Well, I really liked it because you can quietly live with the character, nobodys there to disturb you, nobodys in between you. I was taking on no projects obviously in that time; I just wanted to be with Marie thinking about it, finding her clothes, finding her apartment, finding her world, finding all the sorts of things that she could be doing you know I loved that period, it was something really comforting. So when we came together for filming we just did itboom!, like thatbecause we really knew where we were.
Each film must have its own special set of expectations, both commercial and personal. What do you usually learn from films?
I suppose you learn an enormous amount just because youre in such close contact with these people and when youre away from home youre completely out on a limb just leading an alternative life. I love that aspect of it now. I didnt used to, but now its a little easier since my kids are grown up and I can just go off and do that, get into the whole experience without feeling guilty or worried or pulled that I should be somewhere else, you know? And you go often much deeper into the lives of other people and then youre not with them any more. Youre completely intimate with these people its like a circus troupe and the distressing thing is when it has to end and you stop and you say bye you all get on your planes and you never see them again. You might see them when the film is cut or at the showing of it, and when you see them again, its sort of strange its like seeing someone you might have had an affair with.
I imagine so, you form these intense bonds and then go off to the next project.
You have to do that to surviveor I dounless I suppose you have your own entourage. Maybe this is why the Americans have these huge entourages, they have their own people with them [for some sense of normalcy.]
Speaking of which, American productions and European productions often cover vastly different paths, both in terms of budgets and subject matter. With regards to the filmmaking: youve dabbled in both, which enables you more as an actor?
The European style is really much more to my whatever. But Angel Heart, for instance, was great because it was in such a strange city. . I just came in to do my piece and was haunted by the idea of the story and the whole place. So it felt almost like a European film because New Orleans is very small, like a French town anyway. New York filming I love, I find its very much like Europe too. Los Angeles is different. I mean, I havent really made that many Los Angeles pictures, but its not so familiar, I dont feel at home there.