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Bardot and Godard
on 29 May 2009
Godard's one flirtation with mainstream cinema is a magnificent visual essay critiquing itself. Cinemascope,a new-fangled toy, is a play thing to Godard, whether he's filming inside a new flat or the beautiful waters around Capri. He has Palance(the producer Jerry), and Bardot(Camille) in the same film with Lang(as himself), one of the Masters Godard revered. Paul(Piccoli) has been asked by the philistine producer, Jerry, to rewrite Lang's classical homage to the ancient world of The Odyssey. There's no depth to the film, but it is based on a Moravia novel and within its terms it somehow works. The essence of the film is the ebb and flow of emotions between the lovers, Paul and Camille,in the middle of the film shot effectively in the couple's apartment. Resentment grows into contempt, off-set by flickers of tenderness and love. Paul debates with Lang that Ulysses went to the Trojan war to get away from Penelope. He also says, Ulysses loves his wife, but she doesn't love him, in support of Jerry's view that Penelope is unfaithful. That story reflects his own with Camille. She, like Penelope develops contempt for her husband, Paul, as he sells out on this commercial enterprise,by using her as a bartering tool with Jerry. For Lang, the beauty of the Odyssey, is in the belief in reality as it is, without distortion. But he, like Paul, has to barter with lies in the market place. To Lang, Ulysses is a simple,cunning and daring man.Jerry just wants to seduce Camille and once he gets her by boat to his villa he does.
Ulysses told Penelope to be nice to the suitors. To win her love back he has to kill them. Bardot may never have struck one as an actress but in this film she pulls off the performance of a lifetime ,startled, vulnerable, flushed and defiant. The music,by Delerue is remarkable at conveying the tragedy and sadness of emotion.Palance is cocky,brash, a comic thug, as Godard sends up the type of producers he was dealing with. Piccoli is excellent as the young idealistic writer having to make compromises(a Godard figure). There are homages to good American film, great directors, his partner, Anna Karenin(hence Bardot's wig). The themes marinate in your mind, as it captures the aching, longing, heart-ache of young love gone wrong.There is a beautiful airy lightness on view.