Contempt (Le mepris)
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Written by Jean-Luc Godard from a novel by Alberto Moravia
Rome Paris Films/Les Films Concordia/Compagnia Cinematografic Champion
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
Meta. Godard. Ugh.
Arrogant American Producer Jeremy Prokosh (Jack Palance) has hired director Fritz Lang (played by himself) to direct a production of Homer’s Odyssey. He is disappointed in the lack of sex and, well, “more” in the current script and hires playwright Paul Javal (Michel Piccoli) to jazz it up. Prokosh shrewdly assesses that Paul will be seduced by the money he needs to keep his beautiful wife Camille (Brigitte Bardot).
Soon Prokosh sets about seducing Camille with what looks like Paul’s passive assent. Nothing much else happens but what seems like hours of pointless marital arguments and philosophizing about cinema.
This irritates me more than any Godard film I have seen to date. By far the best part is the long nude scene with Bardot that opens the film, though I am scarcely in the demographic that can enjoy that fully.
The rest of the film is filmed with too clever movie references (Paul has to wear a hat all the time like Dean Martin in Some Came Running, etc.) and deadly dull philosophy. The nadir is a scene that stretches an argument between Camille and Paul to 34 deadly minutes – it’s one of those “You don’t love me any more” “what makes you say that?” “no you don’t” “yes I do” fights – that made me glad I don’t own a revolver to shoot out the TV screen.
There is some nice music and the cinematography is gorgeous. This is the biggest budget and most successful film that Godard made. It is somewhat comforting that even he hated it.