Monthly Film – November

Contempt (Le Mépris) 1963
by Jean-Luc Godard

POSTER FOR MAILWednesday 18th November 2015 – 6.00pm
at
National Film Corporation Theater
303, Bauddhaloka Mawatha,
Colombo 7.

 

 

 

Contempt (Le Mépris)
Contempt is a 1963 French satirical drama film written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard, based on the Italian novel A Ghost at Noon by Alberto Moravia. It stars Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli, Jack Palance, and Giorgia Moll. Today, Contempt is generally regarded as a masterpiece of world cinema.

Synopsis

American film producer Jeremy Prokosch (Jack Palance) hires respected Austrian director Fritz Lang (playing himself) to direct a film adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey. Dissatisfied with Lang’s treatment of the material as an art film, Prokosch hires Paul Javal (Michel Piccoli), a novelist and playwright, to rework the script. The conflict between artistic expression and commercial opportunity parallels Paul’s sudden estrangement from his wife Camille Javal (Brigitte Bardot), who becomes aloof with Paul after he leaves her alone with Prokosch, a millionaire playboy.

Scénariste à succès, Paul Javal travaille à une adaptation de «L’Odyssée», qui doit être tournée par Fritz Lang. Il remarque bientôt que Lang est en désaccord avec Prokosch, le producteur américain. Ce dernier voudrait financer un film épique alors que le réalisateur souhaite faire un film psychologique. Camille, la femme de Paul, le rejoint à Cinecittà. Tous deux sont invités chez Prokosch, qui manifeste un vif intérêt pour la jeune femme. Paul la laisse partir avec l’Américain, espérant se faire remarquer par lui. Camille, qui aime son mari, est déçue. Elle refuse de jouer le jeu et change brusquement d’attitude vis-à-vis de Paul…

Reviews of the film

“Contempt” was Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 attempt at a big-budget, big- star production, and more or less satisfied his curiosity. It was not the direction he wanted to move in, and the rest of his career can be seen, in a way, as a reaction to the experience. Not that the film itself is a compromise; you can see the tension between Godard and his backers right there on the screen, and hear it between the lines of the dialogue, in this newly restored print.

As for Godard, he stays, as always, a little aloof. All of his films are, in a way, about filmmaking; he breaks the illusion of the fourth wall in order to communicate directly with the audience, usually in such an enigmatic way that he seems to be satirizing the whole idea of communication. He likes mannered shots that call attention to themselves, and here, faced with the great width of the CinemaScope screen, he has moments when he pans slowly back and forth from one side of the room to the other, using an unbroken take but refusing to place both characters on the screen at the same time.

When wide-screen movies are shown on TV these days, they are often subjected to the annoying “pan and scan” practice, in which the sides are chopped off and then the camera moves back and forth to show two people who were originally meant to be seen at once. I can only imagine how the pan and scan process would look if applied to this movie, in which Godard has built his own panning into the wide-screen compositions. The worst scenario: The movie pans in two directions at once.

“Contempt” is not one of the great Godard films, for reasons it makes clear. In a way, it’s about its own shortcomings. A drama exists at ground level involving the characters, while the film fights between the tendency to elevate them into art (Lang) or vulgarize them into commerce (Palance). It is interesting to see, and has moments of brilliance (the marital argument, the use of the villa steps), but its real importance is as a failed experiment. “Contempt” taught Godard he could not make films like this, and so he included himself out, and went on to make the films he could make.
Read more..

~ Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

Godard aurait pu baptiser son film « La Nuit américaine », dix ans avant Truffaut. D’abord parce qu’il précède son confrère dans la dissection du cinéma, monde parallèle tenté d’en envahir un autre, jaloux et jalousé : la vie. Et surtout parce qu’il affirme que le coeur des hommes peut s’assombrir en plein soleil, comme on peut filmer la nuit en plein jour. Godard contemple les déclins du cinéma et de l’amour, irrémédiablement liés. Une scène mêle à merveille ces chutes abyssales : Prokosch attire Camille vers une minuscule fenêtre, qui ouvre sur la mer, réduite à quelques centimètres carrés. Inconsciemment, le producteur balourd signe l’arrêt de mort du cinéma, remplacé par la télévi­sion, et celui de l’amour de Camille pour son mari, remplacé par le fourvoiement infidèle.

En savoir plus sur site

~ Marine Landrot – télérama.fr