FASHION / The woman in black: Charlotte Rampling

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IN FRANCE, where she will always be English, she is 'la legende Rampling'. In England, where she can never belong again, she is the archetypal artistic exile who

has chosen the road least travelled: European cinema instead of Hollywood. Famously economical with her

presence on the screen, her choices have deliberately veered towards the unsettling, even the dangerous. Since Visconti's The Damned in 1969 she has been cast in roles that involve tampering with the psyche, and she has taken a perverse delight in manipulating her personal disturbances for the camera. She has, in the past, serenely admitted to being effective in troubling the public as a consequence of being an adept at derailing herself.

Nowadays Charlotte Rampling, in sun-glasses, smoking sans-filtre, still looks every inch the fragile feline vamp but maintains that she can keep herself separate from her creations. 'I have much better control now. I don't go as far as harming myself . . . ' She gives a big wide English-girl grin, 'but I still can't bring myself to accept the trivial parts. I'm still only interested in roles that play with a lot of power, because that's what fascinates me.' She adds something about over-

achievers needing drink, drugs and adrenalin. The implication is that she has done with the drink and the drugs and the adrenalin is the only thing she has left.

Last week she indulged her fascination for damaged psyches by starring in the BBC play Murder in Mind, in which she took the role of the deranged psychotherapist who helps her suicidal patients over the edge. 'I like those BBC plays when they're well done,' she says. 'They bring up contro-

versial themes and don't pander to anything. It's as inventive and daring as television gets.'

Now she's back to her normal Parisian routine, and we meet in a hotel across the river from her pied-a-terre in Saint Germain des Pres, only a 20-minute drive from the large house in one of the city's leafy suburbs that is the operational centre of the Rampling-Jarre menage. Her husband, the composer Jean-Michel Jarre, has recording studios there where all his staff and musicians congregate. This way, Charlotte can always feel involved in the musical process.

Although in France they hold all records for the longest lasting couple in show-biz, it can't have been easy this cross-cultural marriage d'artistes. Each brought one child to the marriage and they have one - David, an aspiring magician - together. They both travel widely, and at one point Charlotte took up photography to be able to document Jarre's spectacular international concerts.

Having arranged the details of the photo session, Charlotte heads off down to the Champs-Elysees. She is going to the cinema: alone. Somewhere I had read that she needed solitude and space. The next time we meet it is at the studio, where the photographer, understandably, is a little in awe of meeting the person already known to him in the famous images of a savage, sexy, fierce Charlotte taken by Helmut Newton and Bettina Rheims.

But she is charming, friendly and becomes only a little impatient under make-up; fidgety the way a child is, longing to have it over with and be able to get on with the fun part. As usual, she is dressed from head to toe in Yohji Yamamoto.

'When I discovered Yohji it corresponded exactly to what I wanted at the time.' I never really needed anything else after that. There is a whole art about his clothes which I love. There is a sense of ceremony somehow. It's very particular.'

She plays to the camera. The expressions she adopts are difficult - dramatic. When, during a pause, she chats to the hairdresser, her face lights up with her natural angular smile. The photographer has seen it too. He looks at me, I feel sorry for him. Charlotte Rampling is the quintessential 'femme fatale', and however much serenity the last ten years may have brought her it hasn't taken any of the unnerving

sexiness away. The French press call her 'la plus mysterieuse des comediennes.' I'd say they've got it right.