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Thread: Contempt

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2002


    Though it’s a film about making movies, there very little actual movie-making in Jean-Luc Godard’s melodrama about a writer (Michel Piccoli) hired to rewrite the script of a troubled international production of “The Odyssey”; this, in turn, causes his marriage to veer off in a catastrophic direction. That Piccoli happens to be married to Brigitte Bardot would suggest a more salacious approach but this is Godard, after all, and the result is anything but. In fact, it’s pretty melancholy: Godard’s disillusionment is not with the act of making movies but the reasons why people make movies and his conclusion—ultimately it’s done for the money, it’s a job undertaken to provide creature comforts for family and can only be repudiated when a cataclysmic event disrupts the family—is contrary to the world he wants to inhabit; but even that fits in perfectly with his theme, articulated in the beginning with a quote from Andre Bazin (“The cinema substitutes for our gaze a world more in harmony with our desires.”). There’s quite a bit of circular talk (the centerpiece of the film is a thirty minute argument between Piccoli and Bardot in which they debate endlessly whether or not there’s still love in their marriage) and philosophical discussions about Homer but, unlike, say, Tarkovsky, where the dialectic obscures—and ultimately negates—the cinematic aspects of the work, Godard is passionately in love with film: whether structuring some lovely tracking shots on the famous Cinecitta lot or framing the strategic placement of specific movie posters on walls or capturing some stunning long shots of the Mediterranean filmed in Capri, you never for a second forget that he’s a born auteur perfectly aligned with his chosen media. As abstract, testy and foreign as “Contempt” may be, it fits our notions of cinema as comfortably as a pair of old loafers. With Jack Palance, startling as the American producer who plays Zeus to Piccoli’s Ulysses and Fritz Lang, playing the director “Fritz Lang”.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    I must say, after Elogie L'Amour, the idea of a Godard film about film-making is guaranteed to make me run screaming from the theatre as if I'd been hit by a napalm attack. His slide into self-indulgence, solipsism and - worst of all - Euro-art-house cliche (from a director who was once so vibrant and original) is one of the greatest and least-commented-on tragedies of cinema, yet he still seems to have plenty of critical supporters who can't bear to admit he's lost the plot.

    As time goes on, I'm increasingly coming to see Truffaut as the greatest genius of the French new wave. At least he could muster opinions other than cheap sneering.
    Perfume V - he tries, bless him.


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