Saturday, July 6, 2013


This 1963 film by Jean-Luc Godard may be his most mainstream work (along with the later ALPHAVILLE),  but its readily followed narrative and lovely Cinemascope framing still pack quite the wallop.  CONTEMPT uses  the filming of THE ODYSSEY as a backdrop for emotional turmoil,  philosophical musings,  aesthetic meanderings,  and critiques of Hollywood film-making.  The orchestral soundtrack by George Delerue is so sadly beautiful that its main motif is repeated throughout the film without losing any of  its haunting power.  Many writers have said that this film is about emotional disgust,  but I say it's really about confusion and estrangement during a time of upheaval (in this case the tumultuous sixties).  How does one find his/her way in a world that seems to be crumbling under  each step,  each word,  each response?  That question is inadvertently answered by Camille (Bridget Bardot) when she describes Odysseus as a "guy who is always traveling",  much like her recently estranged husband,  Paul (Michel Piccoli).  The only difference here is that Paul's travels are all internal,  but are equally strained by a milieu of change (whether social/emotional like feminism,  or political/aesthetic/commercial).  Bardot is Paul's Penelope,  who must fight off the advances of an unruly suitor (Jack Palance as the film within a film's pushy producer),  but eventually succumbs to his "charms" and a tragic car wreck.  Director Fritz Lang plays himself,  as he quietly,  but firmly attempts to steer the film away from despotic commercial concerns as envisioned by Palance's Jeremy Prokosch.  Ironically,  Bardot seems to have been pushed into the role of Camille at the height of her popularity and sensuality,  much to Godard's chagrin. He needn't have worried about ruining his aesthetic,  political, or experimental leanings in the service of a Disney approach.  Highly recommended for initiates into the world of Jean-Luc Godard.

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