Monday, 10 December 2012

Le Mépris (Contempt) [1963]

Made during the heydays of Nouvelle Vague, Le Mépris is one of those films that feature regularly during discussions about Godard’s best works. His first professional tryst with a big-budget producer (Carlo Ponti) and star (Brigitte Bardot), the film worked on multiple levels – modern-day allegory for Homer’s The Odyssey, sly subversion of the medium of cinema, scathing critique on the conflict between art and commerce, and a subtly personal peek into his rocky marriage with his muse, Anna Karina. The movie begins with a moment of compassion between Paul (Michel Piccoli), a struggling playwright, and his strikingly beautiful wife Camille (Bardot). But, their marriage starts experiencing severe doldrums when Paul accepts the job of a screenwriter for a screen adaptation of the Homer epic, to be directed by German legend Fritz Lang (played by Lang himself), and produced by a hilariously incorrigible and arrogant American producer (Jack Palance). Paul wants to earn money that the job has to offer, and is ready to not just sacrifice his credentials as an artist, but also pander to the producer’s leering gaze towards his wife – and thus begins their irrevocable path towards marital breakdown. Godard’s apathy towards big budget Hollywood-style filmmaking where intrusion by a producer into a director’s creative space oftentimes happen (something he experienced, to his severe irritation, during the making of this film), was brilliantly portrayed in it, as also his disconcertingly frank observations on the moviemaking business. The film was replete with deliberate self-reflexiveness and his customary playfulness with cinematography (colour filters), editing (jump cuts and sudden ruptures of chronology), voiceovers (the cheeky opening credit sequence), etc., thus underscoring the inherent artificiality of cinema.

Note: My recent review of the film can be found here.

Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Genre: Drama/Marriage Drama/Showbiz Satire/Avant-Garde
Language: French/English
Country: France

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