1963 [FRENCH]

Drama / Romance


Uploaded By: FREEMAN
June 16, 2020 at 10:55 PM


Jack Palance as Jeremy Prokosch
Fritz Lang as Fritz Lang
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
949.68 MB
French 2.0
24 fps
1 hr 43 min
P/S 9 / 23
1.72 GB
French 2.0
24 fps
1 hr 43 min
P/S 6 / 25

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by OttoVonB 10 / 10

A difficult film.

Paul (Picoli) is hired by vulgarian US producer Jerry Prokosh (Palance) to rewrite a screenplay for his adaptation, which Fritz Lang (himself) insists on shooting in a hyper-stylized, mythological fashion. Paul's relationship with his trophy wife Camille disintegrates as she feels abandoned by him to Prokosh's advances, and sees him subdue himself to these great men.

It is about film-making - of course! - it is about the plight of the artist, but where it succeeds most is in the carefully examined slow destruction of Camille and Paul's marriage. Raoul Coutard's cinemascope photography, filled with lush colors, only serves to highlight how little Paul is and how out of his depth he is. He and his wife hide it in different manners: Paul by trying to assert intellectual superiority over his wiser-than-she-appears wife, therefor earning her contempt. She hides by relying on her sensuality.

Godard typically references his love for film in a way that many will find pedantic, and the lush score isn't always wisely used, overwhelming and sometimes even obtrusive. But thankfully, Godard's message and cast survive the director's pseudo-intellectual short-comings. Bardot is perfectly cast as the ignorant innocent who strives to appear and be smarter than she is (even sporting a brunette whig at some point, in what is really a sad moment of self-loathing), but fails. Camille never convinces when she speaks, but the pain in those eyes is intensely real. Picoli's Paul is easier to sympathize with, as the "reasonable" whose every move to please anyone dooms him further. It is a cruel lesson and warning about relationships.

The film also serves a more sarcastic and amusing (and far more conscious) duel between Palance's Prokosh, superbly vulgar and dramatic, and Lang, who becomes a wise and immensely charismatic figure that stands against compromise. It is sad that this was the German master's only performance in front of the camera.

Le Mépris is slow, and if you get caught too much in Goddard's referencing and hyper-stylization, it will bore you. But if you really follow these characters, you're in for a unique, edifying and sometimes unnervingly uncomfortable ride.

Must be seen several times under different angles to be fully appreciated.

Reviewed by FilmSnobby 10 / 10

Totally, tenderly, tragically.

*Contempt* is a case study in Making The Most Of It. In 1963, Jean-Luc Godard was permitted a big budget financed by an international production, the use of a CinemaScope camera, Technicolor, a pair of icons (Brigitte Bardot and Fritz Lang as himself) to star in the film, and almost total creative autonomy. No auteur -- with the possible exception of Coppola in the Seventies -- was granted this power again. Godard doubtless realized that this would be a one-shot affair, and thus he directs every inch of *Contempt*. He may permit the actors to improvise, but their improvisations are constrained within a tight circle of elaborate choreography. And he denies himself his usual for-the-fun-of-it non-sequiturs: any New Wave mannerisms (and there are few, especially when compared to something like *Band of Outsiders*) are made to serve the various lines of meta-fictive commentary, philosophical inquiry, and more traditional narrative and character development within the film. One wishes that Godard had been forced to do "commercial" work like *Contempt* throughout his career. Big money appears to have disciplined him; to have honed his vision. This New Wave epic clocks in at a mere 104 minutes, making that other 1963 film about film-making, *8 1/2*, seem almost sloppy and bloated by comparison.

What's it about, anyway? Fritz Lang, as "Fritz Lang", is directing an adaptation of "The Odyssey" at Cinecitta Studios. Hovering over him is the fascistic American producer Prokosch (played with manic bewilderment by Jack Palance). Prokosch is unhappy, because Lang has deviated from the script that has turned Odysseus into a modern neurotic-type who is no longer loved by his wife Penelope. The famous director insists on the traditional view of the epic, and then irritates the producer even more by filming it in an over-stylized manner. Prokosch, realizing that this sort of thing will not put butts in the seats, hires a modern neurotic-type (Michel Piccoli as "Paul") to rewrite the screenplay. Paul, meanwhile, is having problems with his own wife, Camille (Bardot).

It's hard to pin down exactly why Camille has taken a contemptuous attitude towards her husband, though the most likely reason is that he has harbored no small measure of contempt for her all along. "I can't believe I married a typist!" is one of his typical exclamations. Or perhaps she despises him because he sells out to Prokosch and then whines about it. This bourgeois screenwriter, who says he needs the *Odyssey* money to pay off their flat in Rome, is also a card-carrying member of the Italian Communist Party. (And he's contemptuous of her typist job?!) He's the sort of poseur that would drive any woman batty: the perfect modern anti-hero, in other words. Prokosch's ideal Odysseus.

The centerpiece of the movie is the 30-minute scene in the married couple's flat. It's the most sustained, minutely choreographed, rigorously blocked and written stretch in Godard's career. A similar, though much lighter, scene with Belmondo and Seberg in *Breathless* served as a mere warm-up for the display of petty acrimony in *Contempt*. A marriage dissolves before our eyes. Meanwhile, DP Raoul Coutard, doing some of the most brilliant work of his career, pokes unobtrusively around the couple, getting cozy with them in the bathroom while one of them sits on a toilet, shooting them from far across the room, catching Bardot and Piccoli at the extreme edges of the CinemaScope frame, slowly tracking the space between them as they murmur their little hatreds. But never getting too close: if Bardot slams the door on Piccoli, we're left stranded with Piccoli, and from a distance, too. It's intimacy without melodrama.

*Contempt* is chock-full of the multiplicity of ideas -- seamlessly reinforced by imagery and dialog -- that make cinephiles love Godard. I've barely scratched the surface and have already run out of space. But I do want to commend Godard on his courage for daring to acknowledge head-on his admiration of Michelangelo Antonioni's *L'Avventura*. Of course, it goes without saying that Godard can't help mocking Antonioni just a bit; but mocking and paying homage are inextricable within the Godard canon. In any case, today's audience may appreciate the economy with which the French director makes his points (*Contempt* is almost an hour shorter than *L'Avventura*), as well as the arguable pictorial superiority of this film to the other one. The scenes on Capri, at the famous Malaparte villa with its wedge-shaped stairs that lead to a barren deck, surrounded by crags that rise like jewels from the calm sea, are some of the most beautiful ever shot. If this was indeed Raoul Coutard's first work with the CinemaScope lens, one can only marvel at his precocious genius.

10 stars out of 10 -- one of the great art-works of the 20th century.

Reviewed by Chris_Docker 9 / 10

The language of Godard

Most cinephiles, faced with a choice between an original language, subtitled film, and a dubbed version, will choose the former. But what if it is a multilingual film, released in different versions? Would you be tempted to choose the version of your own language? Such a choice with Le Mépris (Contempt) yields a radically different experience, well beyond the mere question of subtitles.

The story tells of the making of a movie in Italy with an American producer, an Austrian director, plus a script doctor and his beautiful wife. The French version is multilingual. Whereas the English-American and Italian versions are entirely dubbed. Crucially, in the English-American version, the producer seems to be followed about by a quirky assistant who paraphrases the somewhat vainglorious proclamations of her boss for the benefit of other mere mortals. Only in the French version, is it apparent she is an interpreter.

This is important, as one of the themes of Le Mépris is the breakdown of communication. Not only are the producer and director at odds with each other, but the marital breakdown of the script doctor and his wife (played by Michel Piccoli and the glamorous Brigitte Bardot) is placed under the microscope. Three further parallels are neatly woven into our story. One is the tale of Ulysses separated from his wife Penelope, in which he is protected by Minerva but threatened by Neptune (Homer's Odyssey is the subject of the film-within-a-film). Second is an examination of the gap between cinema-for-profit and cinema-as-art, partly mirrored in the Le Mépris' actual production as well as in its subject matter. And third are autobiographical references to Godard's personal life – both his love life and his life as a filmmaker. Whereas the French version of the movie raises serious questions about the film industry, about the relationship between man and the gods, and even explores some of the more challenging questions about love, life and Homer's work; in the English-American version these things become like added confectionery, arty flourishes for more passive audiences. Or for whom the challenge of discovering cinematic jokes within references to Rio Bravo and works by Fritz Lang (who plays himself as a director) become an intellectual conceit.

Brigitte Bardot here finds at once both a self-consciously iconic and a substantial acting role. On the one hand, her acting talents are utilised to greater effect than in many of her films. On the other, long (soft-core) nude scenes are both complicit in, and critical of, her sex-goddess status. The opening scene, where she teasingly asks her husband which part of her body he finds most attractive, was added at the insistence of the film's American co-producers. Yet its mocking style is almost a lampoon of the use of sex to sell big budget U.S. films. The film-within-a-film's American producer, Jeremy Prokosch (played by Jack Palance), is visibly more enthusiastic about scenes involving nakedness than any faithfulness to the spirit of Homer. Director Fritz Lang, in contrast, goes to great length to examine the essence of the Odyssey, using Dante's Inferno and a poem by Friedrich Holderlin. The gods are created by men, not vice versa, and create the challenges Odysseus is forced to face. It is an easy step to observe how the American producer, throwing his weight around in 'godlike' fashion, both misses this point and actually identifies with the lesser 'gods' of sex and wealth. These gods – in the form of a much-needed cheque for Piccoli's character and the dangling of Bardot's allures before Prokosch, threaten both the marriage and the integrity of the film-within-a-film. Contempt breeds among the characters and begets tragedy.

Piccoli also has a great line about exploitation: "Usually, when you see women, they're dressed. But put them in a movie, and you see their backsides." As if to underline the point, Prokosch casually has his assistant bend over so he can use her (clothed) backside as a table to sign a cheque. His imperious and lecherous attitude dovetails the 'Americanised' scenes that show naked women's backsides without explicitness. They contrast strongly against the clothed Bardot who is portrayed as an intelligent woman able to hold her own.

This film is one of the most rounded of any of Godard's work and can easily be viewed as 'mainstream' – the more philosophical riddles being purely optional. And if Godard is displaying contempt for the prostituting of cinematic art to big business – principally American big studios – the style is still reverential towards his American heroes: Le Mépris has been accurately described as, "Hawks and Hitchcock shot in the manner of Antonioni." Godard, like Ulysses and Piccoli's character, has both engaged with the enemy - American producer Joseph E Levine (Neptune, Prokosch) and prevailed. He has not 'sold-out' to big finance but, like Ulysses on coming home, merely disguised himself as a beggar to better elicit the truth. 'Minerval' wisdom shines through (especially from the mouth of his hero-in-exile, Fritz Lang, with lines that reflect Godard's philosophy). When Bardot's character Camille wears a black wig, she resembles Godard's wife Anna Karina. Her story, subjected to unwanted attentions while her husband is absent, parallels Penelope.

By many sleights of hand, Godard continues to 'explore the uninhabited world' and simultaneously produce a film for many different audiences. Le Mépris is very clever and enjoyable to watch, but does it have anything new to say? Or is it an exquisite exercise in admiring its own limitations? The films strengths are less obvious than the overtly cinematic and revolutionary Breathless, or the philosophically challenging 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her. It has as much depth as you wish to find in it, and is more convincing than his disjointed political diatribes. But, unlike all those films, it can also be overlooked as little more than a pleasant experience. Especially by anyone who thinks it would be simpler if we all spoke the same language. Subtitles or not.

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