• Godard at the peak of his powers. Astoundingly, this is Godard’s sixth film—all since his debut in 1960 of course. This is Godard’s second film in color with the wider format (after A Woman is a Woman), his largest budget, and biggest financial success (which he could not have cared less about probably- haha)
  • CinemaScope process, aspect ratio 2.35 : 1
  • Narrator speaks the credits, starts with showing the director of photography Raoul Coutard (who worked on all of Godard’s important films) tracking along and a Bazin quote
  • After that it opens with a nude, bottoms up Brigitte Bardot—red, blue, and yellow colored tinting within the same shot—

Godard through two color films is already married to these splendid, lavish primary colors

  • The film is draped in Georges Delerue’s “Theme de Camille” music as much as it is the coloring. It is a wonderous piece of music. And Godard’s overpowering use of it is intentional—pointing out the power of it, often overshadowing the dialogue. He uses it like no other director would. Scorsese would use the same piece of music in Casino but it was made for Contempt.
  • The film is about many things including the dissection of a marriage. Michel Piccoli is married to Bardot—and ego incarnate, rich American film producer played by Jack Palance comes in between.
  • Palance’s character is both horrifying and hilarious at the same time. “I like gods, I know exactly how they feel”- haha. He has this hysterically small tiny quote book, and he perks up and giggles when there is a naked mermaid in the daily rushes. This is a satire on some level (there are many layers).

There are at least three readings of the film. One is the updating of the actual Odyssey (which they are adapting), two is the disintegration of their marriage and that plot, and three is Godard’s constant reflexivity and postmodern winking at the audience, pointing out the pretense of cinema

  • A brilliant dedication to the colors in the production design. Palance has the red Alfa Romeo, there’s a yellow Hatari! poster, Bardot in blue… like most of his films Godard references his past work- a massive beautiful Vivre Sa Vie poster

Godard uses cutaways within the narrative to the Greek god statures or plaster people (from Lang’s film of the Odyssey within the film) at least three times – formal connective tissue

  • Speaking of Lang, there’s a sort of Faustian morality play going on here with Fritz Lang (the director in the film) playing the good angel to Piccoli—Palance is the devil – and in many ways the fallout of the marriage is what happens when you sell your soul
  • Referential—Piccoli’s character in this wrote Bigger Than Life from Nicolas Ray, Rio Bravo is referenced, Dean Martin with Some Came Running
  • their towels are primary colors except for the white one that Piccoli’s character wears as a sort of toga (again tying him to the Greeks). At 45-minutes Godard shoots him through two white doorways—white flowers on the front left of the frame. I can’t tell if Godard is influenced by Antonioni, mocking him, or both. Often the characters are just two bodies in the frame posing in these gorgeous compositions
  • It is strange how Truffaut admires both Godard and Hitchcock. Hitchcock is so exacting—storyboarding it all- a perfectionist. Godard is often the opposite. You get the feeling that he could have made Contempt 100 times and it would have been drastically different every time. The film is made up of random heavy music drops, Godard playing on the off-beat so to speak.

I view the fight between Piccoli’s character and Bardot’s character in their apartment much like the elongated apartment scene in Breathless. It takes up almost one-third of the total movie (this is over a half-hour long). This is an observation, not criticism, it is just proof that narrative is not really an interest of Godard.

  • At the 56-minute mark, Bardot on the white rug in a cutaway. This is Bergman (who was not a big admirer of Godard)- Scenes From a Marriage or Antonioni and two lovers inability to connect—there is sex, jealousy, lies—a deconstruction of their marriage. Godard nods at Rossellini’s Journey to Italy.  Godard is always the intellectual- way more about the head than the heart—but this analysis of a moment in their marriage is potent. Godard uses jump cut flashbacks with dueling voice-overs unique to their point of view from Piccoli and Bardot

Godard both using Bardot as a sex symbol, and critiquing

  • Their apartment is comprised of these bare white rooms, cans of paint lying around – Godard likes this blank canvas so he can splash his primary colors… artifice again- stepping through a door—von Trier would take this further in Dogville of course (with none of the beauty)

At 64-minutes is the lampshade scene—Godard goes to his trademark, and intentionally cinematically loud, tennis shot—going back and forth between Piccoli on the left and Bardot on the right. It is a three-minute shot- fabulous cinema.

  • There is a variation on that tennis match shot at the theater later as Godard’s camera captures them now on separate sides of the aisle—structures between like L’Eclisse (Antonioni, 1962). Either Antonioni’s film or Journey to Italy would make for a great companion
  • Comparisons of Nazis and Hollywood producers. Later Brecht’s quote on Hollywood. Godard is angry.

The villa in Capri is one awesome set piece— the stairs, the infinity pool of a rooftop—Godard capturing stunning vistas—a barefoot Bardot…

…these cinematic paintings…

…often only in retrospect do you realize that not many films have sequences like these

Ends with a wreck like Weekend would a few years later. His red car, the blue oil truck, Palance in a red sweater, Bardot in blue

  • A Masterpiece