Monday, April 14, 2008

Movie Review: Contempt (1963)

I have a bad track record with French films. I keep trying, but I rarely like them. Tonight's attempt was by Jean-Luc Godard and starred Brigitte Bardot with director Fritz Lang playing himself. What could be bad? Well Contempt was bad.

The narrative is about Paul, a writer who's hired to help on a film version of The Odyssey, directed by Fritz Lang and produced by a Hollywood ass played by Jack Palance. Paul is married to Camille (Bardot) and the second act is entirely an argument they have in their flat as she breaks up with him and reconciles and he wonders what's going on. The third act takes place on Capri where filming is happening and Paul and Camille continue to argue (mostly at the stunning Casa Malaparte).

But the film is really about filmmaking and the stresses between Hollywood and "real art". It seems Godard hated one of his producers who demanded Cinemascope and more nude scenes with Bardot. So Lang has a line about cinemascope "Oh, it wasn't meant for human beings. Just for snakes... and funerals" and an opening scene centered on Bardot's nude butt was added. Oh and did I mention that the producer was an ass? I thought the little red book he reads quotes from was a reference to Mao, but that wasn't published until 1964.

So some of the shots are gorgeous vistas and others are annoying pan and scans where even with a wide screen Godard refused to put both characters in frame. The big setpiece takes place in a small apartment, with tracking shots that circle around the circling argument. Even the loud score repeats itself. I"m sure there's some disdain expressed in the fact that the opening credits are spoken instead of written (though the subtitling defeats this).

There is some praise to award for the realism of the arguments, how aggravating they can be and how the film manages to evoke those same feelings. Nevertheless, the end result is aggravation. I'm sorry Godard didn't get along with his producer, by why take it out on the audience?

Eberts review is as good as anyones.

Please, recommend good French films for me to see.


grahams said...

Man Bites Dog

Irina said...

Beauty and the Beast
Les Comperes
Cyrano de Bergerac