Now Showing at: Cincinnati World Cinema on October 7th and 8th.
Review by: Larry Thomas
The inherent narcissism in the cinematic process is brought into sharp focus when filmmakers turn their talents and cameras on the good, the bad, and the ugly of movie making itself. This near-schizophrenic love-hate relationship with the people, the industry, and the creativity has produced some spectacular results over the years. From musical-comedy (Singing in the Rain) to stark melodrama (Sunset Boulevard), when Hollywood gets introspective, the films can be truly memorable.
One of the most cutting of these films didn’t come from Hollywood, but from France. Contempt, made in 1963 by Jean-Luc Godard, centers around an award-winning screenwriter, played by the brilliant Michel Piccoli, who finds it financially necessary to go to work for a crass American producer working in Italy at Cinecitta Studios. The producer, a chilling, self-absorbed performance by Jack Palance, develops designs on Piccoli’s voluptuous wife, the movie icon Brigitte Bardot in her prime and at her best. To add to the introspection, Godard films at Cinecitta Studio, and even creates a role for the legendary director Fritz Lang, playing himself, while Godard plays Lang’s assistant.
Like with many Godard films, some may find it a bit talky, but it’s never boring. Some may find it cold and distant, but that’s the point. And the performances are all outstanding.
Contempt is beautifully composed and shot in CinemaScope and color by Godard’s long-time collaborator Raoul Coutard, and features another great score by the grand master of French movie music, Georges Delerue.
After a brief initial release in the US in 1964, Contempt was unavailable for years. The distribution rights had lapsed, and all existing prints had faded to pink. Leave it to New York boutique distributor Rialto Films to come to the rescue. In its ten years of existence, Rialto has brought back to pristine life everything from Godzilla to Godard, much to the delight of those who care about classic films. Finally, after being available for a few years, Cincinnati will have a chance to see this beautiful, absorbing tale on the big screen, as it should be.
Contempt is a presentation of Cincinnati World Cinema at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Showings are Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 pm, and will be followed by a discussion about the film.