Released: 5 April 2010
Cat No: OPTD1217
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Jean-Luc Godard writes and directs this French drama starring Brigitte Bardot, Fritz Lang and Jack Palance. An aspiring playwright, Paul... Read More
Filmmakers today are considered prolific when they make a film every year or two, so it's startling to remember Godard's rate of creativity in the early '60s.
Le Mepris (1963) was his tenth film in four years, and it's as stately, monumental, and elegant as his earlier films are energetic and freewheeling. It was also his first film with bona fide stars: Brigitte Bardot (at the height of her popularity), Jack Palance, and famed director Fritz Lang (playing himself).
But far from the sort of international blockbuster that producer Joseph Levine intended, the film is every bit as subversive (and illuminating) to its genre as was his earlier A Woman is a Woman (1960). Godard was equally interested in molding a critique of international co-productions by vain producers with deep pockets and iron fists as much as he was in telling an intimate story about a relationship slowly disintegrating from the inside out.
The two subjects are mediated through a narrative depicting moviemakers adapting Homer's Odyssey in the Mediterranean and Godard carefully juxtaposes his elements in a way that deepens and expands each thread. "I know exactly how they feel," Palance's macho mogul responds to Lang's footage of the Greek gods, not long before flinging a film canister, discus-like, in a tirade against creative indulgences. "At last you have a feeling for Greek culture," Lang sarcastically replies.
Michel Piccoli, on the other hand (playing Lang's pensive and indecisive screenwriter), most decidedly does not-making his Ulysses-like emotional and creative absence one possible source of his wife's (Bardot) increasing contempt while precipitating her own Penelope-like infidelities.
But Godard refuses to categorize so cleanly, leaving causes and allusions unpronounced and a film of astonishing formal beauty that has become one of the most widely discussed of modernist cinema.