Who I Am by Charlotte Rampling, Christophe Bataille and William Hobson (translator)

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Who I Am by Charlotte Rampling, Christophe Bataille and William Hobson (translator)

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A mysterious little memoir, proving the author to be just as cagy and illusive as you might have thought – or perhaps feared. The photographic illustrations certainly make up for things, however.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 128 Date: March 2017
Publisher: Icon Books Ltd
ISBN: 9781785781933

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I'll drop all pretence of plot summary, and set the stall out, just as this book does. Here's a quote from page one – Who I Am: not a biography. With the name of one of cinema's most esteemed actresses on the front, you might assume it to be an autobiography for a start, but before that quote we'll already have been disabused of that thought, for apart from a couple of quotes the first six and a half pages of the book is addressed to Charlotte Rampling, and not apparently by her. There are gnomic paragraphs and lyrics here, in italics that suggest they are direct quotes, leaving the rest of the text here to be both a collaborative look at the star's background, and a musing perusal of the nature of creating the book in the first place. And that stall I was setting out certainly doesn't have the right number of legs if I don't mention this book can be read in well under an hour.

We start with the cancellation of a big book about Charlotte Rampling – the official biography – as its subject withdraws cooperation. This slender tome is partly the result. But it's certainly nowhere near the factual collection of statements you might expect, or desire. There's no mention of any film, hardly a beat about any of her children beyond the dedication, never a spouse or partner (or allegedly controversial housemate). Yes, there are insights into the biography, partly because the sole concern of the story is Charlotte's formative years, so we see how the family swung so dramatically from the Hitler Games in Berlin 1936 to a most unexpected tragedy. But with all that on well-known encyclopaedic sites, there has to be a caveat emptor here.

The elements of the text that are more easily accredited to Christophe Bataille mention the mystique he seems to have found in his collaborator, with directions to never particularly expect a response from either of her houses, or email addresses, and demands to forget redacted contents. I suppose some of this is purely in keeping – Charlotte is of a certain age, where her formative years led to her being a noted beauty, a baby boomer who became adult as skirts became shorter, and she had to formulate her own response to being looked at by men and cinema cameras. The gaze is male, of course, but she certainly responded with a singular gaze of her own, and works like this equally deflect all probing questions.

There is also a side of this book, however, that seems to fit in with that – we get family archive portraits of the Rampling daughters, and Charlotte as a teenager, that show consummate appeal, whatever the gender – it's no surprise agents were sniffing around to represent her media interests, as they're now called, before she clammed up to represent her concerns over privacy. With bizarre anecdotes about said archives being featured here, the pictures have a reason to be on these pages, not just for their ease on the eye.

So I'm left with mixed feelings about this book. I am sure an unauthorised tome will appear soon after her passing (not that I'm looking forward to that), but I did feel frustrated at the wilful poetic style here, and the personal intent overriding the opening up to the full biographical questioning. I fully respect her work on this piece, and the private decisions she made in its creation, but being one of her audience more likely to turn to the non-existent reportage-styled book, I did leave this short read feeling a little short-changed.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Childhood portraits of the famous, alongside a less than formal autobiography, also feature in the likes of I Me Mine by George Harrison.

Buy Who I Am by Charlotte Rampling, Christophe Bataille and William Hobson (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Who I Am by Charlotte Rampling, Christophe Bataille and William Hobson (translator) at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Who I Am by Charlotte Rampling, Christophe Bataille and William Hobson (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Who I Am by Charlotte Rampling, Christophe Bataille and William Hobson (translator) at Amazon.com.

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