CONTEMPT (LE MEPRIS)
DIRECTOR: JEAN LUC GODARD
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Raoul Coutard
CAST: Jack Palance, Brigitte Bardot, Fritz Lang.
ONE WORD: It's a Godard Film...yeahhhhh...
Most Jean Luc Godard films have a devil may care attitude about them during the filming which is very clear, and quite open. Many times the director himself will philosophize out loud, so we can have the idea of film-at-work rather than a film, which has been thought out and then done.
CONTEMPT is a different kind of GODARD film, if only because there are a few things which make it flow a little easier, though it still has moments of the typical Godard attitude. The appearance of Fritz Lang, the venerable German director, as a character and main driving force behind the film, has Godard actually paying attention to what is being said, and spending less time wondering if he should aim the camera to the left, or to the right. Aside from that it is a nice color film, where we can get a good look at Brigitte Bardot au naturel, and even making an attempt at acting. But when, was a Godard film about acting? Now that is a concept worth considering!
There are some wonderful moments in it, like the time when Fritz is discussing film and THE ODYSSEY, which they are attempting to film, and his outlook at the medium is extremelly poetic, something which Godard himself can only watch. Godard's poetry is in another area of film making. It is that of turning on the camera and making anything fit, for critics to figure out, something which he loves to do, and has gotten him into many intellectual discussions. But Fritz is no ordinary man, and his appearance gives the film an aura that maybe Godard is really making a statement about the art of film making, which he himself may find illusive, and Fritz illustrates so easily. But what Fritz says, is not what Godard is doing ... what Fritz says is what film kinda became, but is not, and I think that Godard wants to get back to that freedom of imagery that the earlier films had.
And this film is also different in that it makes time for the scenes to develop, this time with music, and some nice pieces at that, of classical music. Before, and after, Godard's strategy was to let the scene stretch itself out, regardless of content, without any music, which often times created a rather disturbing effect, which is difficult to get used to. When one sees TWO OR THREE THINGS I KNOW ABOUT HER, LA CHINOISE and several other films, the wondering camera acts as a pair of eyes that will always wonder around the room regardless of the fact that an actor, or actress, may be speaking. This style, creates a dimension which is not easy to define. The locale, is also a part of the personality of this acting, and as such is also very important. Unless, we notice the pendulum movements of the camera, which then becomes a fun game between two people. Do words really mean anything, and are we listening.?
While CONTEMPT is not an easy film to see, it is rather intriguing since you don't really know what to expect. Jack Palance, from his early days of filming hero roles in Italy, looks very good, and acts like a true American producer, and figure head, that gets the star.
I like Godard, and enjoy his antics, where most people are so enamored with 'meaning' in their filming and shoots. This man can do more by just turning on the camera than most people can ever think about in a script. And for that reason, Godard films are always fun to watch ... if you come here to catch some sort of thrill of the Hollywood variety, you will probably quit in the middle ... this is about something else, and it might not have any meaning at all.
The days and age of the experiments are few and far in between,
and this Director is the best at it. And few will ever come close to the fun and
satire that he makes of any/all film conventions. See these films with that in
mind and you will be up for an interesting evening.
Copyright (c) Pedro Sena 1994
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