"Le Mepris" is another superb Godard movie. It tells the story of the marital difficulties of a scriptwriter (Piccoli) and his typist wife (Bardot) as Piccoli's involvement in the filming of Homer's "Odyssey" (directed by Fritz Lang) causes friction between the pair.The film starts off with the couple very much in love, but a perceived slight by Piccoli on his wife and a flirtation by him with the film producer's female assistant him act as the catalyst for the unhinging of their relationship.
"Le Mepris" is filmed exquisitely; its colours are vivid , the mood languid and pensive , the soundtrack haunting. Like in "Au Bout de Souffle", Godard's female lead is capricious and mysterious,beautiful but dangerous. She turns a minor display of indifference by her husband into a marital make or break ,much to his surprise. However as the film unravels ,we see that the harmony and tenderness of the couple in the opening scenes disguises fundamental shifts in the balance of their relationship. Piccoli has a sharper intellect and more ambition than Bardot and she feels he is leaving her behind, only her physical beauty appealing to him. She wants to bring things to a head, restore the marital equilibrium in some way ; Piccoli is merely bemused at her sudden coldness to him.
The viewer never quite knows whether the marital problems are down to Piccoli's insensitivity or Bardot's irrationality, in the same way as the subplot of the filming of the "Odyssey" leads to debate about whether either Odysseus or Penelope were secretly fed up with each other despite appearances to the contrary on the surface and who was most to blame.
An enjoyable film which has much to say about the fickleness of modern relationships and Bardot's portrayal of a selfish,cold bitch/ strong ,liberated woman (delete as appropriate) was ahead of its time by several decades.
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.
on 13 December 2010
Quite seriously in my view the best film directed by Jean Luc-Godard & I've seen most of them.I had read the novella ("A Ghost at Noon" by Alberto Moravia),on which it is based,before I first saw the film at an art house in the early 1970s & I thought it stunning....it was made in the early 60s but was deemed too non-commercial for general release.Godard has brilliantly telescoped the story & action into a few days.Stunningly shot with haunting music by Georges Delerue, I find it a deeply moving & superbly acted tale of the collapse of a marriage.Bardot is,of course,ravishing ...made when she was in her late 20s...but do not expect any soft-core erotica a la "Et Dieu crea la femme"...just an essay in classic cinema with no cine-gimmicks that ,for me,spoils some of Godard's other work.Utterly delighted it's now available on DVD..I have a VHS copy that is getting old through years of playing.
on 10 November 2000
The striking red-yellow-blue colours of this film frame a harrowing, enigmatic narrative which refuses to be reduced by simple explanations. The (predominantly male) eye of the camera tenderly takes apart Brigitte Bardot's beautiful body, the female object to be looked-at. But as communication breaks down in Camille and her scriptwriter husband's marriage, woman becomes subject and man becomes object - the object of contempt. Camilles's silences, that is what she refuses to explain to her husband, is her power, so her contempt for him is never explicitly explained in the film, leaving the spectator's mind to go over and over the sparse dialogue. In the idyllic Italian landscape, with its azure sea, the story of the Odyssey is made to resonate painfully with the tragedy of a perfect love turned irrevocably sour. There's no doubt that this is a sad film, and its rather dated style may seem strange to the modern eye, but it is still incredibly powerful and striking. This wonderful film won't leave your memory quickly.
on 30 April 2014
considered by many to be Godard's best film, this is an excellent transfer from Studio Canal, and includes extensive special features such as two interviews between Godard and Fritz Lang. highly recommended
on 10 May 2003
contrary to some of the above reviews, this is not a particularly accessible film and listening to the feedback of the 100 people who recently watched it with me is not necessarily for regular film buffs.
Some shots are painfully long and much of the narrative is shot in real time, so you may find it a bit slow, boring and after the finality of the death of the central female protagonist, you might feel pretty depressed! however, because godard is so occupied with making you as an audience work hard to unravel what's going on in the minds of the central characters, you might like that it's refreshingly challenging. its the kind of film that makes you realise how commercial hollywood cinema (something godard demonstrably disapproves of in le mepris) has a tendancy to lull you into the story and dictates to you how to interpret scenes and characters.
for those of you who seriously adore french new wave cinema, this is by no means a film that's easy to review and i can't begin to communicate how relevant and innovative a film this is. there are so many intrinsically placed themes that run alongside the production of the odyssey, the death of cinema as an art form, the breakdown of a marriage, the misuse of love and morality, the parallels between reality and fantasy...quite simply the film is its own work of art.
on 22 April 2011
A few shots don't seem to fit picture quality of a Blu-ray disc:
- total = 5'21"
Runtime: 1:42'56"; 24 fps
Aspect ratio: 2,35:1, (orig.)
Audio: GB, F, D, E
ST: GB, F, D, E, NL, DK, N, SU, S, JPN
Region Code: A, B
Dual Layer, 47 GB (Film: 29 GB)
- Introduction Colin MacCabe [author of
"J.-L. Godard - Portrait of the Artist at Seventy"; faber&faber Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at Seventy] 5'31"
- "Contempt"; 52'28"
- "Le Mepris... tenderly"; 31'31"
- J.-L. Godard talks to Fritz Lang, 1:00'57"
- Meeting with Fritz Lang" by P. Fleischmann, 14'27"
- BD Live
- 20-pages colour booklet
on 17 January 2003
You can read the synopsis of the film on the other reviews present. Let me, on the other hand, focus on one scene which captures the beauty, intelligence and genius of Le Mepris.
The scene in question is in the bedroom between Piccoli and Bardot at the beginning of the film. It is likely they have just made love and Bardot (Camille) embarks on reassuring herself the love of her husband through a series of questions about her body. This portrayal of love gives us a feeling of heart-warming gratitude to Godard for delivering us from the fog of blockbuster, commercialised half-baked notions of love. This is, however, not the only way in which Godard strives to be different.
Let us look at lighting, music and camera. This tender scene is filmed with a strong red filter to enhance the impact of love. The hypnotising soundtrack dutifully plays over the images unfolding before us. The camera begins with a steady shot of the couple in bed. Nothing to write home about, I suppose. Except the red filter first changes to natural lighting, then to blue. When a piece from the soundtrack comes to an end, it does not coincide with the end of the scene as is usually the case, but rather the latter continues with all its intensity in silence. At other times the music becomes so loud we cannot hear the dialogue. The camera, having performed its common tasks of presenting the scene embarks on a close-up amble of Camille's nude body as if it had a mind of its own.
All the above techniques are deliberately engineered by Godard to make the spectator snap out of his passiveness. He is telling us to be independant, to react against being told how things are, in this case love. Incidentally, let us not forget that the physical love-making between Bardot and Piccoli is absent in this scene. Think about how hard a commercial movie will painfully try to film its obligatory love-scene in a constantly novel way to realise how significant this is.
Although nearly 40 years old now, Le Mepris remains and will remain fresh and inspiring for many years to come. The film is a necessary antidote to today's multiplexes and as relevant in the present cinematic climate to film-making in the 1960's.
on 26 June 2011
Although shot decades ago, Le Mepris is still fresh and appealing through its stunning use of cinematography and colour. While the cast is of a high caliber, with the passing of time the 'who's-who' factor is increasingly irrelevant, and the film stronger still. It is true to say that the presentation of the story is at times a little over the top, laboured and self indulgent, but like a David Lynch movie, the plot can comfortably take second place to the message and seduction of the visual, as well as the film's hypnotic score. So perfect is Godard's movie, that its imperfections are largely lost in the experience of viewing and can be chosen to be ignored in contemplating the film later.
on 1 September 2011
Godard's Le mépris (1963) assembles a lot of prominence, of various dimensions: Brigitte Bardot as Camille, sex kitten and wife of Paul Javel, a script writer (Michel Piccoli), Jack Palance as the maniacal American producer Jeremy Prokosch, Georgia Moll as his hard-hit secretary, and finally Fritz Lang, playing himself filming Homer's Odyssey. The text is after Alberto Moravia's novel, Carlo Ponti is co-producer, so the location is Italy, Capri, Italian writer Curzio Malaparte's avant-gardist villa (built 1937).
All roles are taken to their extremes - from Miss Bardot's, as one critic called it, "mockery of the cinema business with tame nudity" to Fritz Lang's insistence on his view of the conflict between Odysseus, his far-away wife Penelope and Sea God Poseidon. Prokosch wants Paul Javal to rewrite the script and his wife for recreation. In the process, Camille declares herself out of love with Paul, in a debate of over half an hour and essentially one scene.
In the end, Camille elopes with Prokosch in his red sports car, both getting soon killed in a road accident with a fuel tanker. This end, of course, annihilates a lot of what seemed relevant earlier, including the inconclusive discussion between Lang and Javal/Prokosch. These, however, are not the only allusions to ulterior subjects - like the film industry, stardom, vanity and sanity ... Even without catching all these - you tend to get at least one more for each extra viewing - the film is immaculate, Godard's regular cameraman Raoul Coutard at his best in colour.