An Enigma, Wrapped in a Riddle, Surrounded by Mystery
The latest publication by celebrated French photographer, Bettina Rheims, is not so much a book as an event. Created in partnership with her husband, the noted writer and art historian, Serge Bramly, Rose, C’est Paris is a large format volume complete with DVD and is about... well, that is the question.
Text: Mike von Joel | Images: Bettina Rheims, Serge Bramly
The images are taken in parallel to the making of the film, yet are not stills from it. If there is a storyline – a mystery to be solved – then the photographs might be considered visual clues to the movie. Sounds obscure? That is just the beginning. The basic concept – storyline – is the mysterious disappearance of one twin sister (Rose) and the ramifications to the sister left behind, known as B.Those familiar with the films of Luis Buñuel, who had in fact moved from Spain to Paris in 1925 to make his famous duo: Un Chien Andalou (1929) with Dalí; and L'Âge d'Or (1930) will have some inkling of Rheims’ starting point. Rose, C’est Paris offers a cornucopia of Freudian proposals, Surrealist visual puns and erotic cross-references, notably to Helmut Newton. Utilising art/fashion celebrities like Naomi Campbell, Monica Bellucci and Charlotte Rampling; Rheims also waves a brief greeting to other cult directors, such as Roman Polanski (Repulsion). Or does she? What is certain is that Taschen have delivered another book in the genre they have made their own: provocative, stylish and immediate; photographic books that go way beyond the mere coffee table and into the collectors’ library.
Bettina Rheims came to photography with a loaded CV that incorporated modelling, journalism, and as art gallerist. After high end magazine and advertising work, as well as exhibiting her own images (stuffed animals, striptease artistes, portraits of women, lovers) she collaborated with Serge Bramly on a collection of nudes, Chambre Close, which became a huge international success. All these ingredients are inducted into this film and book.
But in the final analysis, it is Paris, the backdrop to this detective tale of abduction and absence, which might hold the key. Perhaps the complex elements in the film are no more than Rheims’ and Bramly’s distillations of that most sexy of cities and its chic inhabitants. It is an erotic journey worth taking.