Thursday, October 02, 2014


Based on the novel Il disprezzo by Albert Moravia, Les Mepris (Contempt) is the story of a playwright who is asked by an American producer to help in doing re-writes for an adaptation of Homer‘s The Odyssey that is being directed by Fritz Lang while his personal life starts to unravel. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard and screenplay by Godard and Moravia, the film is an exploration of a man dealing with his situation as his attempts to be involved in a film has him noticing that his own marriage is starting to mirror aspects of the story he is trying to tell. Starring Michel Piccoli, Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance, Giorgia Moll, and Fritz Lang as himself. Les Mepris is a rich yet provocative film from Jean-Luc Godard.

The film explores a playwright’s life falling apart when he accepts a job to do re-writes for an adaptation of The Odyssey for director Fritz Lang. In need of the money so he can buy a new flat for himself and his wife Camille (Brigitte Bardot), Paul Javal (Michel Piccoli) notices that his marriage is unraveling due to the presence of American producer Jeremy Prokosch (Jack Palance) who is battling Lang over artistic differences as Prokosch wants something that is more commercial. While Paul deals with trying to create a script that can satisfy both men, his marriage to Camille starts to break down as the film explores how art can play into someone’s personal life where Paul’s struggle starts to mirror some of the aspects of The Odyssey. The film’s screenplay doesn’t really have much of a plot as its first act is about Paul arriving to Italy to meet with Prokosch and Lang where he wonders how to tell the story. The film’s second half explores this slow breakdown between Paul and Camille as it leads to a third act where resentments and desperations start to unfold as all of the converge at the island of Capri.

Jean-Luc Godard’s direction is very mesmerizing as he presents the film on Cinemascope to create something that has the look and feel of a Hollywood film but with aesthetics that are more keen to Godard’s own sensibilities. Notably as Godard creates a film that plays into some of the trouble of what goes on in film productions. Even as Godard would infuse elements of styles such as long and elaborate tracking and dolly shots to play into the Paul meeting with Prokosch about making the film as well as his disintegrating marriage unfolding inside their apartment. Some of it involves these gazing long shots that showcases a marriage disintegrating slowly in this long sequence that is the film’s second act where Camille questions about their marriage as there’s attempts to reconcile which heightens the drama. The film’s third act set in Rome and the island of Capri showcase Lang’s vision of how he wants to tell The Odyssey which starts to mirror Paul’s own disintegrating marriage.

One aspect of Godard’s direction that is very notable is the way he showcases Camille as she’s occasionally presented nude where she is this object of affection for Paul as well Proskosch who is smitten by her as he plays a part into the marriage’s disintegration. It would come ahead in this third act where cinema and realism collide as it showcases Paul’s frustrations with everything in his life including his own marriage. Even as he questions the decisions he has made as an artist and how it has affected his own relationship where Paul would ask Camille what to do as she revealed that any decision he would make would have consequences. Overall, Godard crafts a very engaging and intoxicating film about a writer being compromised in his life as an artist and as a man.

Cinematographer Raoul Coutard does brilliant work with the film‘s very colorful cinematography to capture some of the film‘s naturalistic look of some of the locations as well as some of the interiors and its use of filters for some of its stylistic moments. Editor Agnes Guillemot does amazing work in creating a style that is mostly straightforward with the exception of some of montages that plays into Paul‘s own reflection of his disintegrating marriage. The sound work of William Sivel is terrific for some of the sound effects that occur in the film within a film as well as a scene where the characters watch a theater performance. The film’s music by Georges Delerue is fantastic as it features a somber orchestral piece that plays into Paul and Camille’s own breakdown of their marriage.

The film’s cast includes cameos from Godard and cinematographer Raoul Coutard as Lang’s crew members plus Linda Veras as a siren for the film that is being made and Giorgia Moll in a superb role as Prokosch’s assistant/lover Francesca who deals with Prokosch’s cruelty as well as befriending Paul and Fritz Lang. Fritz Lang is excellent as himself as he plays a director wanting to create something that is arty but also true to Homer’s story as he befriends Paul where they discuss the story and interpret their own ideas about the story. Jack Palance is amazing as Jeremy Prokosch as this American producer who is also a playboy as he tries to take control of the production and woo Camille.

Brigitte Bardot is fantastic as Camille as this beautiful woman who finds herself in the presence of Prokosch as she begins to question her husband’s love for her. Finally, there’s Michele Piccoli in a brilliant performance as Paul as this playwright who tries to do what is right as he finds himself compromised as he wonders how it has affected his marriage and wondered if he can do anything to save it and himself.

Les Mepris is a remarkable film from Jean-Luc Godard. Armed with a great cast and dazzling visuals, the film is a compelling story about a man losing his grasp on his personal life and what he wants as an artist. It’s also a film that explores the world of Hollywood productions and how it can trouble European filmmakers wanting to instill their own vision. In the end, Les Mepris is a phenomenal film from Jean-Luc Godard.

Jean-Luc Godard Films: All the Boys Are Called Patrick - Charlotte et son Jules - Breathless - The Little Soldier - A Woman is a Woman - My Life to Live - The Carabineers - Band of Outsiders - A Married Woman - Alphaville - Pierrot Le Fou - Masculin Feminin - Made in U.S.A. - Two or Three Things I Know About Her - La Chinoise - Weekend - One Plus One (Sympathy for the Devil) - (Joy of Learning) - (British Sounds) - Tout va Bien - (Letter to Jane) - (One A.M.) - (Number Two) - (Here and Elsewhere) - (Every Man for Himself) - (Passion) - (First Name: Carmen) - Hail, Mary - (Soft and Hard) - (Detective) - (King Lear (1987 film)) - (Keep Your Right Up) - (Nouvelle Vague) - (Allemagne 90 neuf zero) - (JLG/JLG - Self-Portrait in December) - For Ever Mozart - (Historie(s) de Cinema) - (In Praise of Love) - (Notre musique) - (Film Socialisme) - (Adieu au Language) - (The Image Book)

© thevoid99 2014


s. said...

Great review! I really need to get around to seeing that. It's been on my watchlist for years!

thevoid99 said...

Put as a Blind Spot for next year. There's a bunch of Godard of the New Wave period that I want to do as I might do one of those films for next year as a Blind Spot.