I think I first saw Charlotte Rampling in Angel Heart, her one hauntingly weird scene, with the piano keys, her quiet intense voice, the clinking of her spoon against the side of the cup. Her eyes, man. Her eyes. They can be creepy, or sad, but always intense.
She’s my kind of actress. Fearless. Un-pin-down-able. A survivor. Doesn’t seem to give a fuck.
Still resisting classification and limitations.
But it was 1974’s The Night Porter (with Dirk Bogarde opposite) that cemented my belief that she – along with Gena Rowlands – was the scariest actress of her generation. You don’t cuddle up to Charlotte Rampling. You don’t warm to Gena Rowlands. Actresses like those two are scary. Raw meat, on display. Flayed, whipped, beaten by life. Clinging with ripped fingernails to some ledge, laughing hysterically and wildly as they hang over the abyss. Their cover-ups are jagged, incomplete, their pain long-lasting, inseparable from the look behind their eyes.
All can do as an audience member is sit back, shut the hell up, stop judging, stop wondering why they are so DIFFERENT from other actresses (where is the clean-up, where is the resolution, where is the “moral”??), and let yourself be overwhelmed by them. Frightened by them. “Holeeee shit.”
Still from The Night Porter, below – and a clip of its most famous (and, actually, least controversial) scene: