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'Charlotte Rampling: The Look': Capsule movie reviews

Also reviewed: 'Cook County,' 'House of Pleasures' and 'Spellbound.'

December 16, 2011
  • Charlotte Rampling in a scene from Angelina Maccarone's documentary, "Charlotte Rampling: The Look."
Charlotte Rampling in a scene from Angelina Maccarone's documentary,… (Kino Lorber/Les films d'ici )

As haunting and captivating as its famed subject, Angelina Maccarone's "Charlotte Rampling: The Look" proves a unique documentary portrait of one of cinema's most quietly enduring talents.

Although a linear, anecdotal biopic could easily have been fashioned about the British-born actress — aptly dubbed here "an icon of desire" — Maccarone instead enlists Rampling herself to reflect on her life via naturalistic chats (artfully shot in New York, Paris and London) with friends and collaborators including fashion photographers Peter Lindbergh and Juergen Teller, writer Paul Auster, director-son Barnaby Southcombe and production designer Franckie Diago.

With such weighty topics as "Age," "Love" and "Death" ascribed to each conversation, the now 65-year-old Rampling offers up an array of candid, sometimes profound musings that provide singular insight into her creative, artistic and emotional soul. Those looking for dishy specifics, however, will be disappointed.

Clips from notable Rampling pictures including "Georgy Girl," 1974's then-controversial "The Night Porter," "Stardust Memories," "The Verdict" and the more recent "Swimming Pool" and "Heading South" punctuate the discussions while providing a stirring visual timeline of this gracefully aging beauty.

— Gary Goldstein

"Charlotte Rampling: The Look." No MPAA rating. In English, French and German with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.

Down and out in East Texas

With his debut feature "Cook County," writer-director David Pomes takes a confident dive into dicey waters to track a grim tale of a crystal meth-addicted family. Unfortunately, strong performances and authentic atmosphere can't quite mask a herky-jerky storyline lacking a distinct center.

The action takes place largely around the East Texas flophouse that's both meth lab and home to the film's nominal engine, a mercurial tweaker nicknamed Uncle Bump (Anson Mount, frighteningly good). His adaptable 6-year-old daughter, Deandra (Makenna Fitzsimmons) and anxious teenage nephew, Abe (Ryan Donowho), share the trashy digs and serve as reluctant pawns in Bump's illicit — if often flagrant — operation.

Enter Abe's father — and Bump's brother — Sonny (Xander Berkeley), a reformed user who returns after a few incommunicado years with still-weak parenting skills, a bit of largesse and a hidden agenda. Some vivid episodes ensue, including a carrot-dangling trip to suburban normalcy for Abe and Deandra and, later, a vile test of Bump's fatherly concern — which he fails monstrously. It all leads to an ending that's as inevitable as it is cathartic.

The backwoods, drug-centric setting — not to mention its rogue's gallery of off-grid lowlifes — will surely invite comparisons to last year's superior "Winter's Bone," although "Cook's" 2007 copyright indicates Pomes' cameras rolled first.

— Gary Goldstein

"Cook County." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. At Laemmle's Monica 4-Plex, Santa Monica; Laemmle's Fallbrook 7, West Hills; Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.

'Pleasures' and painful reality

Though at first, er, blush, writer-director Bertrand Bonello's "House of Pleasures" evokes the canon of late-1960s soft-porn chic purveyor Radley Metzger, its gauzy look at an upscale Parisian brothel circa 1900 evolves into something more — and also less.

On the one hand, the film plays like an intimate series of beautifully composed paintings depicting daily life at L'Apollonide, a velvety palace of desire, fantasy and dashed dreams, where aristocratic men cavort with alluring women near-classically trained in the oldest profession.

On the flip side, the movie can often feel like the world's earliest reality TV show — a kind of sexual survival of the fittest — in which various under-one-roof dramas play out among a camera-ready cast of wannabe starlets playing characters with such glamorous names as Clotilde, Samira and Madeleine. And doesn't that dark-haired courtesan in the corner look a little like a Kardashian?

Either way, "Pleasures" becomes as enveloping — and sometimes as awkward — as one of the L'Apollonide ladies' heaving corsets. And, despite its many flashes of skin and sin, "Pleasures" is not only not erotic, but somewhat anti-erotic (nothing like a bit of syphilis or facial disfigurement to ruin a good time).

Still, an all-female, slow dance sequence backed by the Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin," although wickedly anachronistic, proves also quite stunning.

— Gary Goldstein

"House of Pleasures." No MPAA rating. In French with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours. At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills; Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.

A modern-day haunting

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