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Contempt (1963)

Le mépris (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | 18 December 1964 (USA)
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Screenwriter Paul Javal's marriage to his wife Camille disintegrates during movie production as she spends time with the producer. Layered conflicts between art and business ensue.

Director:

Jean-Luc Godard

Writer:

Alberto Moravia (novel)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Brigitte Bardot ... Camille Javal
Michel Piccoli ... Paul Javal
Jack Palance ... Jeremy Prokosch
Giorgia Moll ... Francesca Vanini
Fritz Lang ... Fritz Lang
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Storyline

Paul Javal is a writer who is hired to make a script for a new movie about Ulysses more commercial, which is to be directed by Fritz Lang and produced by Jeremy Prokosch. But because he let his wife Camille drive with Prokosch and he is late, she believes, he uses her as a sort of present for Prokosch to get get a better payment. So the relationship ends. Written by Stephan Eichenberg <eichenbe@fak-cbg.tu-muenchen.de>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

More Bold! More Brazen! And Much, Much More Bardot! See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

France | Italy

Language:

French | English | German | Italian

Release Date:

18 December 1964 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Contempt See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$900,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$33,284, 27 June 1997

Gross USA:

$40,575, 17 January 2014
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (cut) (re-edited)

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The argument which takes place between Michel Piccoli and his wife Brigitte Bardot lasts for 34 minutes. See more »

Goofs

It is possible that all "mistakes" in the film that involve visible equipment are intentional, or at least intentionally uncorrected: the film, after all, is about the artificiality of making a film, and the initial credit sequence shows filmmakers shooting the film itself. See more »

Quotes

Paul Javal: You don't want to make love?
Camille Javal: Listen to the jerk.
Paul Javal: Is that a mocking smile or a tender smile?
Camille Javal: A tender smile.
Paul Javal: So, answer me!
Camille Javal: If it were true, I'd tell you. A woman can always find an excuse not to make love. But you're really a jerk.
Paul Javal: Vulgar language doesn't suit you.
Camille Javal: It doesn't suit me? Listen to this: Asshole. Cunt. Shit. Christ almighty. Craphole. Son of a bitch. Goddamn. So, still think it doesn't suit me?
See more »

Crazy Credits

The opening cast credits are read, without titles See more »

Connections

References Rio Bravo (1959) See more »

Soundtracks

Spiral Of Love
(Italian Version) Written and Performed by Piero Piccioni E La Sua Orchestra
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Deeply Thematic
5 June 2009 | by LechuguillaSee all my reviews

French New Wave Director Jean-Luc Godard's apparent intent here is to portray film-making as a grubby, degrading commercial enterprise that taints everything it touches. Given this contemptuous premise, film producers are pimps; film directors are prostitutes. Thus, film-making is essentially artistic prostitution.

That's the major theme among a maze of interlocking themes, most of which are so subtle that trying to figure them out requires multiple viewings and/or college coursework.

The plot is undeniably slow. There are many single-shot sequences, and the entire film contains only about 150 shots. The result is that scenes are very lengthy. Further, the story is amazing in its almost total absence of melodrama. The result of slow pace and lack of melodrama, for many viewers, is abject boredom.

But I think that effect was intentional. My impression is that Godard expects viewers to work, to be part of the film process. In one scene Fritz Lang, the director character, says "One must suffer", in the context of film-making, of which the viewer is included.

"Contempt" has only five main characters. Prokosch (Jack Palance) is the archetype Hollywood producer: crass, stupid, money hungry, uninterested in culture or poetry. He's domineering and dictatorial. In one scene, he mutters: "When I hear the word culture, I grab my checkbook". Fritz Lang, as the film's moral center, counters by saying that in Nazi Germany, the word "checkbook" equated to "revolver", a veiled reference to an edict of Joseph Goebbels, Nazi propaganda czar under Hitler. Equating a Hollywood film producer (Prokosch) to Goebbels is about as contemptuous as one can be toward Hollywood.

But the plot in "Contempt" also features a writer named Paul (Michel Piccoli) and his pouty, sultry, rarely smiling wife, Camille (Brigitte Bardot). Prokosch wants Paul to write the script for "The Odyssey", the film within "Contempt". "The Odyssey" is supposed to be a story about ancient Greek gods. And the main characters in "Contempt" mirror to some extent the characters in "The Odyssey".

The plot of "Contempt" is segmented into three main parts. The first and third parts focus explicitly on film production, relative to "The Odyssey". The middle section focuses on the discordant relationship between Paul and Camille. Here, most of the plot takes place inside their apartment. The critique of film-making continues, but in a more subtle form, via "mis en scene" staging and framing. And it's presented almost in real time, the effect of which is to amplify boredom for viewers.

"Contempt" is shot in color and in French Cinema-Scope. I did not care for the widescreen projection. Godard uses lots of point-of-view shots. And the entire film is saturated with tracking shots. The use of camera filters symbolizes technical devices that "filter" reality, the implication being that films can never be like real life. Red, white, and blue are the film's main colors, a cinematographic reference to American film-making. Outdoor scenes, especially on the Mediterranean, are beautiful. Georges Delerue's haunting score sets the tone for the whole film, and can be described as tragic, mournful, and majestic, in keeping with epic Greek tragedy.

Acting is acceptable, if unremarkable. Jack Palance, however, is not terribly convincing as a corporate suit. The film's budget was roughly 5 million-franc. And interestingly, almost half of that went to pay the salary of actress Brigitte Bardot, whose presence in this film reeks of personal vanity.

Clearly lacking in entertainment value, the story in "Contempt" will be a pain for many viewers, as it was for me. However, the beautiful score and the gorgeous scenery at Capri help offset the film's script. Taken as a whole this film is important, historically. And what I most admire is that its thematic contempt for Hollywood film-making was courageous in 1963. Unfortunately, that theme is still valid, 46 years later.


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