Saturday, May 3, 2008

Contempt (1963)

Contempt is the story of the end of a marriage. Camille (Brigitte Bardot) falls out of love with her husband Paul (Michel Piccoli) while he is rewriting the screenplay Odyssey by American producer Jeremiah Prokosch (Jack Palance). Just as the director of Prokosch's film, Fritz Lang, says that The Odyssey is the story of individuals confronting their situations in a real world, Le Mépris itself is an examination of the position of the filmmaker in the commercial cinema. Godard himself was facing this situation in the production of Le Mépris. Italian producer Carlo Ponti had given him the biggest budget of his career, and he found himself working with a star of Bardot's magnitude for the first time. ~ Louis Schwartz, All Movie Guide

Theatrical Feature Running Time: 104 mins
Contempt (1963)
It is interesting to see Fritz Lang on film playing himself and true to everything I have heard, he also did not get along with producers, although it is easy to see why any director would not get along Prokosch.

As some of my recent on-line discussions have revolved around "objectification" of individuals, I was struck by the blatant objectification that Camille shows throughout the picture including one of the opening sequences where she is nude in bed and asks her husband if he likes her various body parts including asking if he likes her nipples or tits more. He uses the filters of red, white and blue during this sequence. Stam says it is to show homage to both the colors of the French and USA flags. And it is worth noting that even before the commentator noted this, I had noticed that Godard (director) had a lot of dynamic blues and reds throughout the film.

I can readily identify with husband Paul. Although he shows his inability to make decisions (spineless and inconsistent as described by Stam), he actually was giving her the ability to make decisions for the couple. Instead she wanted a manly man and thus experiencing the bombastic personality of the producer, she saw her husband as a weak ineffectual man.

You're not a man.
Basically sums up Camille's feelings about her husband but we have to see and hear her beat around the bush until the last 10 minutes of the film before this is revealed. But ultimately it had to end as Greek Tragedy...

Robert Stam gives the commentary for the film, recorded in 2002. Stam seems to think Camille is smarter than the part is showing out, but a truly smart woman would have spelled out how her husband should have made her happy and stopped all the beating around the bush including lying about still loving him when he asked. If she lied about that the husband also had to question other statements she said later on. He was smart enough that her feelings toward him as soon as she met the producer. So the husband knew what was happening, he clearly did not know what to do. This agony kept increasing and he then becomes more violent in words and actions.

While yes in real life people often talk past each other and in "American films" Camille would have said you were an ass and prostituted me off to your producer after the she was taken by the producer in his car, still real life requires not just beating around the bush before spelling out what you want and desire. It would have been interesting to hear what a feminist film critic may make of this film.

While Stam spends a lot of time about how the filming of a film is produced, I often consider this just navel gazing by people in the industry. He also goes on to explain that Prokosch was to represent the embodiment of the new form of fascism that was based on money and power. The Anti-Americanism is noted by having the producer be so obnoxious.
Fair to middling.

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