Le Mepris : A Film Review

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Director Jean-Luc Godard, France/Italy, 1963, 1hr 43mims, subtitled, Cert, 15. Fritz Lang, Brigit Bardot, Jack Palance.
Unreal brilliance
In the most stunning of places a trio meet to discuss changes to a movie.  The Producer, the Director, the potential rewriter  – scriptwriter and his wife.
Local World
For the beginning of the narrative the producer Jeremy (Jerry) Jack Palance is found at his former film stages on set in Italy with a dilapidated enterprise wound down and worn out studios. It is he claims pointedly his kingdom now a ruin. With each word the echoes of former cinema are torn rags and Fritz Lang as himself is not delivering the film Jerry wants and needs.
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Gone are the days of United Artists and independent is key and new formulas are embraced by film makers and demanded by cinema goers.  The sense of this reality plays out as a old and modern struggle which is comedic to begin with and hopeless inertia seems so set in on this venture all are engaged in.  It is of course Homer’s area of conjecture on fate, destiny and life, ‘The Odyssey’.  So many spellings and readings of the title are played with on clapper boards, posters, books that uncertainty is prime.
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Body beautiful
Initially we meet resident author Paul, husband of Camille.  Michel Piccoli and Brigit Bardot. They are in bed in the morning and the nude not naked Camille quizzes him on his perception of her.  Her awakening is a prelude to her questioning as the day goes on her real place and relationship with Paul.  Jean-luc Godard has cast a slightly troubled male partner for Camille to draw out the state of any marriage of sexual union.  Will it entail asking if the other loves them or will they find a set of silent responses like animals dropping their brow or leaning their head and moving their mouth in or out of a smile?   Or will it remain continual test ratified by lovemaking or rejection. Camille is questioning and is unreadable even to herself.
Restlessness and Compromise
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Godard plays to the stresses it puts on the viewers instincts to warm or dismiss the characters in the centre of things. In the second part of the film we are at the newly aquired flat where the reading of Camille although she won’t admit it. Is that Paul is using her to ingratiate himself with the producer.  Jerry acts as Poseiden perhaps.  Though he could be the benefactor of the left at home Penelope. Works each way.

Paul is essentially the Odysseus part. Lang is fatherly and learned in his assessments but comically inept at showing any brilliance in working with the Jerry contrived script that he brings to the film process.  A scene of straight talking about where they have reached takes place in a projection room.  It provides a theatre set for emotions to fly around the room.  

Infidelity

This is where Paul is challenged to become involved in something he needs only to satisfy what he believes may suit his ailing relationship.  The one that began ailing that very morning for no particular reason, unspoken ‘gift’ of his wife open to Jerry as passenger to Villa One! and Camille is none the wiser (to him) and maybe uncertain of her own covictions as to why it appears to becoming a shipwreck.

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Where the Odyssey leaves out truth and goes searching for as Lang recites, pursuit of learning, we are switched as lights of and on the trail of each story.  Godard does occasional cutting room forays into the near past and in a frame shows a piece of edited future.  He also catches Camille once or twice in partial darkness with her eyes piercing the cloth of the screen in luminous glorious singular gaze.  Whether through accident or design it is a shot that looks deeply to the interior of Camille and only Brigit Bardot would possibly have that capacity to draw you into her through simple singular framing of her eyes.
Fixation
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Journey
The journey in the Odyssey has many players and it is Penelope who is stationary. Caught on an island, Ithica, alone and under orders to entertain strangers bearing gifts.  Is Jerry to be the benefactor?  Fritz (I prefer M) Lang has many of the best lines.  Jerry has his thumbnail size red book of very decent beliefs to shar with everyone but is in Palance’s take of American producers not least probably from his own experience does not intellectualise his character too much but keeps him save and knowing what plays out.  He pump primes those around him with the decadence, visited, of money.  Palance could not work with Godard. And hated the work asGodard would not entertain his take on the American moguls. The film encircles the themes in many other reality connections.  Carlos Ponti wanted more BB sexual presence. Bardot wanted fun and to be working on the French new wave. She also despite having relatively few speeches evolved her own acting style and played the part of a woman needing intellectual equality and uses a brunette wig to signal this and acts as though her beauty is the spoiler. Go to Fritz for some script objectivity as Godard frequently explored the femme fatale and used BB too much to extepolorise this.

For producers came from theatres accumulated monies along the way which the more honest and creative Paul subsists through his gift which is constructing mysteries not plagurising historical narratives.  Paul is adrift and all too quickly appreciates the level of his relationship with Camille is at.  Throughout the film Godard uses left to right and back again for speeches between people which Fritz takes part in memorably and intuitively accurate in pacing and projection.

Others Views
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Casa Malaparte
Into each section of the film comes a love of location which ultimately finds itself at a truly remarkable and appropriate place.  One built by a novelist, diplomat who is alters his name along the way.  Visually the film is multi-layered with tropes of cinema, vaudeville scenes, back lot references in the art and exactitude of portraying what is ineffective a fictional account, the beautiful serenity of lingering on a human form which happens to be Brigit Bardot in all her exterior beauty.  The play on environments and in particular Godard’s strong rapport with built and natural scenery knowing when it is strong and instrumental in storytelling.  Colour is used in bold contrast.
Signal Signature Colour
 Again Fritz even gets to comment as a mere aside on the use of a colour to one of the actresses circulating within the drama.  It is fabulous excentuated by sublime weather where even the shirt and tie works with a linen or woollen suit.  Jerry wears, un- Jack Palance like a red woollen pullover as part of Godard’s visual mission control.  More absurdity and juxtaposed alternative to reality which the movie industry is renowned for and Godard unashamedly offers the con it to us on many subtle palettes. Chiefly his directorship as the supreme lead.
Sense of place Genus loci
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Some shots of action are subtlety sexually charged and little censorship of sexual discussion or interaction is employed with grace respect and good taste prevailing making it inconspicuously overtly sexual not

 pornographic and distracting.     A slipcase book provides the juxtapose of the two forms and Hollywood meets West Hollywood (pardon the Michael Connoly stereotyping – it goes with Paul’s real home keyboard) through ancient ephemeral depiction of the Kama Sutra in one or two overtly animalistic traits.  A scene includes a referencing, subtly ancient images of the porn Paul shows only tacit interest in, given it by Jerry.

Slipcase art
The location is itself an epic, famous and powerful influential piece of architecture.  Like a terracotta upturned boat, in the film it becomes a forth character symbolising in its dilapidated state, (it has thankfully been restored to a pristine gem of a building nestling in Capri where the never changing and always changing sea comes to its base.) a need for change and compromise as nothing stands still.  Pure elemental longing lust love present themselves no matter the surroundings and while isolation and focus is brought by the location, voyage of discovery in simpler ways of doing things, of needs and true rapport and connection are thrust forward changing the dynamic of the one person among others. Brigit Bardot, the one person is torn between her present and future desires.  Is she the sacrifice she believes she is in this male world?

Is she Penelope?

Visual mastery
Former illusions especially visible around filmmaking subvert the lives as Jean Luc-Godard explores and exploits the narrative to find ways of describing the innermost emotions and feelings.  Jack Palance is singularly determined not to loose his love yet in his role as producer he has – like Godard making a commercial international appealing film, certain values to set aside no matter how hurtful or destructive they may be in the scheme of things as they unfold.  
Architecture of unique beauty and inspired forms
Casa Malaparte is homage to destiny by Italian architect Adalberto Libera started in 1937 for the journalist, novelist and diplomat Curzio Malaparte. Born Kurt Erich Suckert, Malaparte’s name derives from “evil/wrong side” and is a play on Napoleon’s family name “Bonaparte” and clear what that intended.  Malaparte rejected Libera’s initial design for the house went on to build it himself with the help of Adolfo Amitrano, a local builder which they completed in 1942.
American Movies
Paul goes into it naively and learns more about his wife than he bargained for and he is therefore required to accept, even as an asset, this previously unseen need of his wife.  To be less shallow than a suntan or embodiment of beauty which is where Brigit Bardot, as Marilyn Monroe struggled, with the precarious value of provocative and erotic beauty simply held as the visual self which everyone adores and see degrees of wonder in. 

Brigit Bardot became reclusive and found her peace in an equally beautiful spot near St Tropez where she developed a sanctuary for cats and strays.  It is as if the beauty she clearly, not plainly, was became a burden on her mind, altering her sense of self and the value of intrinsic interior beauty.
Father of film
Fritz Lang’s ability, cinemas perhaps, to be the agent of learning; his frequent use of historical quotation and writings, particularly referencing the importance of residing in the present moment where the only reality that exists and matters, is central.  The feminine needs and desires are put forward as being utmost in obtaining the key to happiness with allusion to Gods active part, being close but not controlling is at the forefront of the analysis.  His quotations come in his little 1963 book also in part. He was involved at a time he needed the acting fee and his part is topping an era where film making has new routines and lost traditions.

However faulty it is all there is to go on and the apple And original sin presents the flaw of human acting firstly in the woman (Jesus displaying psychic traits believing himself as the son of God perhaps) displaying fashion judgement in plucking the fruit forewarned not to and binding to her by chains of regret the male psyche.

You could go on for days discussing and wondering about this as it is a staple of art and film without any end or  concept of reasoning outplaying another.  So films attract and stars who define the implications of our own values come streaming on our insatiable quest of self discovery.  Discovering beauty is a very giving life force with powerful incentive to desire it even more once the source has been imagined as found.  It’s there or here or possibly hidden if we were to lift that or this.
BFI re-release with Studio Canal
The BFI seem to think it is a cause worth salvaging and reworking for these times, 2016 appears and it is 53 years since it was made. Some of the following images take the place and its unintended symbolic awesome presence to project values against.  From glasses to scent to clothes it provides projection. 

To even take things further, the building is beguiling feminine like an emerging body rising out of the shoreline as a pubic carapace solid and fundamental. It is seductive and mysteriously many things.

Conclusion ##### 5
Absolutely superb film making as good if not better in this restored version and some fifty three years of being able to regard it.
Thanks to the whole unit who made this for us to see another day.

It is running now at Queens Film Theatre until this Thursday, the last showing presently and widely available and worth seeing on a cinema screen and to join in the laughs and reactions which are illustrative in themselves.

John Graham

5 January 2016

Belfast

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