Movie of the Week: ‘Contempt’

“Contempt” (1963) – Look up the definition of ‘contempt’, and you’ll find “the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn” and “disregard for something that should be taken into account.”

Director Jean-Luc Godard’s movie has a movie-business setting.  However, rather than tackling big-budget, big-screen magic, “Contempt” is primarily conversational, and the film’s title certainly becomes a key element to the discourse.

Paul (Michel Piccoli), a French playwright-turned-screenwriter, and his wife Camille (Brigitte Bardot) are visiting Italy and on-set for a production of “Odyseey”.  Jack Palance – with a history of playing tough guys – is an American producer here, and he’s got an ornery streak that will make anyone within earshot quake in their leather loafers, tennis shoes, or cowboy boots.  Jeremy (Palance) isn’t happy with his movie’s dailies, and he wants Paul to rewrite something new.  

Camille (Brigitte Bardot) and Jeremy (Jack Palance)

Godard’s picture could easily arrive on stage as a three-act play, with the second act as the most critical.  Paul and Camille argue back at their loft, but their disagreements range from simple bickering to life-changing quarrels.  You see, an event occurs during the narrative’s first act that changes Camille’s outlook on her marriage that appears invisible to the human eye, and Paul and the audience scramble to discover the sudden change of heart.

Bardot’s beauty is on full display, and especially in the opening scene.  Camille lies nude on her and Paul’s bed, and she repeatedly asks if he approves of various parts of her body.   She’s a late 20-something typist who married for (and is in) love, but Camille’s insecurities are also exposed, as evidenced by her buying a black wig to cover up her gorgeous blonde locks. 

Camille is frustrated, and the young wife tries our patience, as parallels between her marriage and “Odyssey” come to life.

Camille (Bardot)

Filmed on the scenic Italian coastline and filled with Georges Delerue and Piero Piccioni’s warm score, this Bardot feature is a tough one to forget.

⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2 out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Written and directed by: Jean-Luc Godard

Starring: Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli, and Jack Palance

Not Rated

Runtime: 102 minutes

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