The actress is making a new foray into song thanks to composer Léonard Lasry. The opportunity for a meeting under the sign of the intimate.
Bitingly ironic, Nazis appear on the living room television. On this October afternoon, the Arte channel is broadcasting “The Fall”, the film which traces Hitler’s last moments in his bunker. Charlotte Rampling has little to do with this recent work, yet one cannot help but think of one of her most striking roles, in Liliana Cavani’s “Night Porter”, released in 1974. British actress played a former deportee attracted by her ex-lover and executioner Dirk Bogarde. It was a scandal.
In 2022, Rampling, 76, allows herself to be photographed at her home in Paris. An orderly, elegant interior, where a sublime cat with a hard look appears before slipping away. A row of Britannica encyclopaedias, an old framed print depicting his children, Barnaby Southcombe the eldest, David Jarre, and his daughter-in-law, Émilie Jarre, stand discreetly in the library. “I took this photo and had it enlarged,” she smiles.
His French sounds with a touch of exoticism, sometimes the mother tongue resurfaces, to deliver his thoughts more quickly. She meticulously arranges the objects on the coffee table. She is thought to be distant, austere, she marks a reserve but can laugh out loud, ready to evoke “Love but what a funny idea”, this album recorded with the musician Léonard Lasry.
Élisa Point, the lyricist, understood me, it’s completely me.
Paris Match. You recorded a disc twenty years ago with Jean-Pierre Stora, “Comme une femme”. Why reiterate now with Léonard Lasry?
Charlotte Rampling. At the time I had taken singing lessons, it was a nice challenge, but I quickly realized that it was not what I wanted to do. I ended up finding a kind of sing-talk, where I put my voice. Since then, I wanted to complete the experience, without really knowing how. I let it simmer until the chance of my meeting with Léonard Lasry, who sent me a title, “Via Condotti”. I had had a somewhat similar experience with Alain Chamfort, Chamfort’s text was very beautiful, I had the feeling of making cinema without images, an invisible film.
In “Enough Traveled”, you sing: “I’ve seen the whole world, no need to go anywhere else, I like to stay still… I won’t move an inch”… We imagine you, it’s you…
Yes, Élisa Point, the lyricist, understood me, it’s completely me. And I continue like this: “I left to stay… in SaintGermain-des-Prés. I have lived in this neighborhood for four years. I knew different places in Paris and also Croissy-sur-Seine, in the inner suburbs, where I raised my three children with Jean-Michel [Jarre]. I couldn’t see myself raising them without a garden and without animals. In London, there is more nature, more green spaces than here.
People have to come to me. I never impose myself or ask.
Why didn’t you stay in London?
It happened like that. Because I met Jean-Michel by chance, and we decided to make our life together… He asked me where I would like to live and, as I spoke French because I had attended a French school as a child, I answered Paris. It was 1978 and this time lasted a lifetime…
Jean-Michel Jarre showed his talent as a lyricist for Christophe. Wouldn’t you have liked him to write songs for you back then?
We talked about it once, him and I, and then it all evaporated, because basically writing lyrics wasn’t his thing. And I wouldn’t have caused it myself, I can’t, people have to come to me. I never impose myself or ask. It’s always been that way, it’s a bit like how a muse works.
But the muse is often an object…
As the actors are articulated dolls. But I don’t like it. I need to participate in the creation. I used this term thinking of Diane de Beauvau-Craon, whose book depicted her encounters with talented characters that she was able to inspire, the Palace, the crazy era of the 1970s…
Did you go to the Palace? Did you go out a lot young?
Not a lot. I must say that my time was fascinating. We weren’t aware of it even though we knew we were starting a new era. Everything was possible. The emulation of the 1960s, the triumphant youth, concerned a small circle, mainly in London, a little in Paris. We all saw each other, I had a small role in “A Hard Day’s Night”, by the Beatles and it was fun! I had been on the rise, on the “fast track” since I was 16. I was going crazy, I was happy, light and everything stopped with the death of Sarah, my sister. I was 20 years old. My existence has become more serious, darker, everything has changed, everything. It was a radical change. I decided not to get lost. To go to more marginal films, to hunt comedy to be able to release my emotions.
We had decided my father and I that my mother should not know that her daughter, my sister Sarah, had committed suicide.
And you revealed in 2003, in a long portrait published in the “Guardian”, that your sister had not died of a hemorrhage but had committed suicide. Why?
I have confided in this journal over the years. I told them my secret. It was heartbreaking to see it written, my mother had just died, I had promised not to say anything before. I revealed to a journalist the pact that bound me to my father: he and I had decided that my mother should not know that her daughter, my sister Sarah, had committed suicide.
This drama and this decision explain your career, your taste for troubled roles, from “Night porter” to “Max my love”… Because, in the cinema, you explore the malaise, the madness, what you could not allow out of respect for your parents?
Yes. When you unearth a key to understanding someone… I was waiting for this revelation. I didn’t know when she would pop up, but it was getting so heavy. My life, the reason why I make films took on their full meaning the day I was able to expel this secret, share it with others. Because we don’t make films for ourselves. We offer ourselves through the images, the roles. And we get nothing. When the shooting is over, the director will cut, edit, pamper his film and we actors leave, it’s over. But I needed people to understand me.
In the cinema, the feelings were mine, it was not about a game.
Because cinema was my lifeline. The feelings were mine, it wasn’t a game. I might have another name on screen, have another profession, it was me. It was for real. I was not playing.
Do you regret it?
How could I? It’s my life. If you regret it, you end up in hell! This event made my existence winding, tortuous, but before it was too good to be true.
We are listened to by a shrink but with the press I don’t pay and you listen to me!
Your interviews almost resemble sessions with a shrink…
We are listened to by a shrink but with the press I don’t pay and you listen to me! Dialogue with journalists can be a form of living testimony, I feel the interest. I always expressed what was on my heart.
Even if it means getting carried away, as in 2016 when, on the radio, you mentioned “anti-white racism”, to condemn demands to boycott the Oscars for lack of diversity? You were nominated in the category of best actress for “45 years”…
Jean-Noel, my companion [NDLR, l’homme d’affaires Jean-Noël Tassez] had just died. I was gloriously on this path to the Oscar, well maybe. A shrink told me afterwards that I had reacted to the event. You say anything to anyone, it’s sudden, the moment seems unbearable. It was early, but I never give interviews in the morning. I instantly regretted it and knew what was to come.
I rarely take part in such big productions because no one asks me to.
Why did you agree to play in “Dune” by Denis Villeneuve? However, you are not a blockbuster actress…
I rarely take part in such big productions because no one asks me to. I’ve never been a Hollywood actress but I’ve always loved history. Science fiction does not interest me, but “Dune”, the philosophical adventure thought up by Jodorowsky, pleases me. We met him with Jean-Michel in the 1980s, Jodorowsky fascinated him. When he saw me, he exclaimed, “You are my Jessica!” OK! He was crazy at that time. And I’m part of the adventure, forty years later. Denis Villeneuve is a sensitive and visionary director, he makes history magical.
Paul Verhoeven was irresistible.
And the not very subtle “Benedetta” in which you play a formidable mother superior who ends up sick with the plague, before burning in the flames?
Paul Verhoeven was irresistible. And as long as I didn’t have the title role! This kind of role amuses me and we shot in France in real monasteries. I love monasteries, being quite monastic myself, I appreciate retreats, silences, calm.
Your photographic collaboration with Juergen Teller is in the same vein, a desire to have fun and also shock, a little?
He is like my brother. When he puts his buttocks in the air on a piano, in front of which I am, the scene seems completely normal to us! We laugh a lot. Absurdity fascinates him.
Do you remember the photograph of you taken by Helmut Newton in 1973, where you are sitting naked, in profile? We must have finished our session and he said to me: “You have a beautiful body, let’s do something for us. What would you like?” I did not know. So he looked at me. “Get on the table, come on, do something!” and I replied: “But Helmut I have never posed nude before!” “Sit on the table then.” And this image was born, which I love, of which I own an original print. It was very innocent.
A SPOKEN, SONG AND PLAYED ALBUM A disc but what a funny idea. The musician Léonard Lasry, at the initiative of the project, worked with his usual author, Élisa Point, on this album designed for, around and with Charlotte Rampling. The actress does not try to be what she is not, a singer. She whispers, speaks, modulates a haunting voice, offers a kind of phlegm as disdainful as it is energetic, a clever mix, to express Point’s texts in music. The beginning promises to be promising, cinematographic, “Magnificent isn’t it” thrills the listener, promising him a dark daydream, a melancholy embodied marvelously by Rampling. It’s funny at times, pungent, long at times, before retouching just with the track “Enough traveled”, which underlines and mocks the star who has become sedentary, Rampling no longer likes to move but to stay at home, sheltered. She has seen everything, known everything in the world, might as well sing it if not to walk there.