Contempt

Le Mépris

Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Year: 1963
Country: France
Running time: 103 mins
France/Italy

Production co: Rome-Paris Films/Les Films Concordia/Compania Cinematografica Champion
Screenplay: Jean Luc-Godard
Based on the novel A Ghost at Noon (Il Disprezzo) by Alberto Moravia
Photography: Raoul Coutard
Editors: Agnès Guillemot, Lila Lakshmanan
Music: Georges Delerue
In French with English subtitles

Cast
Camille Javal: Brigitte Bardot
Jeremiah Prokosh: Jack Palance
Fritz Lang: Fritz Lang
Paul Javal: Michel Piccoli
Francesca Vanini: Georgia Moll
Assistant director: Jean Luc Godard
“‘Relatively normal for him,’ is how a palpably relieved Carlo Ponti is said to have described Contempt, the most prestigious and certainly the riskiest film on his 1963 production schedule… Contempt was, and remains, Godard’s only real foray into industrial cinema. It is a movie with stars (apart from Bardot, whose salary amounted to half the film’s budget, Godard had cast the American Jack Palance, up-and-coming French actor Michel Piccoli, and veteran German filmmaker Fritz Lang), with a well-known literary source (which Godard respected to a surprising degree), and with exotic locations captured in widescreen and colour. Ponti had every right to hope for an international hit… What he got instead was on of the defining moments of modernist filmmaking, a movie that takes place amid the smouldering ruins of the studio system, creating much of the language and spirit of the new cinema even as it deeply, solemnly mourns the loss of the old. A film that teeters between filial loyalty and Oedipal revolt, between allegiance to a unified, classical system and an angry impatience to get on with the new, Contempt is one of those works in which you can feel the aesthetic ground shifting beneath your feet. Like a Cézanne still life or a Sullivan skyscraper, it yields a low rumble – the sound of rules changing.

“Relieved or not, Ponti took Contempt and immediately dubbed it into Italian, stripped out Georges Delerue’s magnificent score, cut it by 16 minutes, and dumped it on the domestic market without Godard’s name on the credits… And so there is much to be thankful for in the fine new print, struck by Canal Plus in France and distributed in the US by Strand Releasing… With its widescreen image restored, its multilingual soundtrack returned, and its dazzling, pop-art colours refurbished, Contempt is now ready to retake its place in film history, as the richest film of Godard’s first period, and perhaps the most complete and satisfying film of his entire career.” — Dave Kehr, Film Comment, 10-11/97