Thursday, November 22, 2012

#829. Contempt (1963)

Directed By: Jean-Luc Godard

Starring: Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance, Michel Piccoli

Tag line: "More Bold! More Brazen! And Much, Much More Bardot!"

Trivia:  Producer Joseph E. Levine insisted on the Brigitte Bardot nude scene that opens the film, realizing that it was the only way he could sell a film that he hated

Out-of-work writer Paul Jarvel (Michel Piccoli), who is married to the gorgeous Camille (Brigette Bardot), has been hired by American producer Jeremy Prokosch (Jack Palance) to re-write the script for a film that’s already in production. 

Based on the classic tale of Ulysses, Jeremy feels the movie, in its current state, is much too abstract, and is in dire need of a little “poetry”. The director, Fritz Lang (playing himself), disagrees with Jeremy, and the two are constantly butting heads as a result. 

But Jeremy is adamant in his belief that Ulysses’ failure to return to Ithica had something to do with his wife, Penelope, who had fallen out of love with him. Paul agrees with Jeremy, and works with Lang to build a story in which Penelope, angry at Ulysses for refusing to intervene when she was approached by various other suitors, learns to despise her husband

Ironically, Paul himself faces a very similar situation when Jeremy makes advances towards Camille. Not wanting to lose his lucrative writing assignment, Paul does nothing to dissuade Jeremy’s flirtations, and his apathy leads Camille to believe that their marriage is dead.

With Contempt, Godard has crafted a memorable, though-provoking, and ultimately heartbreaking motion picture, using the pretense of making a film to underline the passion - or lack thereof - of his main characters. Paul has deep feelings for Camille,  and at the beginning of the movie tells her his love is unequivocal, and will last forever. So, when he acts as if he's not jealous over Jeremy's aggressive pursuit of her, Camille feels a sharp betrayal, and believes Paul to be a weak and feeble man.

Along with its tragic tale of a marriage dying before our eyes, Contempt is also quite beautiful, and while the cast is effective (even Palance, who admittedly goes over the top on a number of occasions), the real star here is the Italian scenery. Shot, in part, on the island of Capri, Godard goes to great lengths to emphasize the beauty of this area, using it to contrast the sorrow and humiliation his characters are forced to endure.

A positively stunning movie that weaves a most unique love story, Contempt is a marvelous film.

1 comment:

Klaus said...

I'm a sucker for films about film making + Fritz lang = very cool.