Contempt: Framing Mise-en-scène

A Ghost At Noon

Film buffs were drooling in 1963. Rumors carried the message that Godard was shooting a major CinemaScope color film with Jack Palance and Brigitte Bardot. Based on Alberto Moravian’s novel A Ghost At Noon, people know Godard not because of Vivre Sa Vie or Breathless. They know him because his films are rich in arthouse-filled but hit-and-run collages. On the other hand, the rumors came true, spreading that Godard was having problems with his producer as well.

His producers were annoyed that the rough cuts were so sacred and there wasn’t a single nude scene with Bardot even sexy costumes. At such a moment, Godard obliged by adding a prologue to the wife and husband in bed. It inventories such luxurious figures through narratives about the fragility of partners and color filters. He reassures her unpleasantly by saying he loves her completely in a tragically tender way when she asks for reassurance about her body parts.

Besides being one of Godard’s greatest masterpieces, the film has a grandiose atmosphere of splintering. By way of the pattern of the previous film, he hit the run and threw away the rules. It was as if he allowed himself to aim for the cinematic majesty. Being his rich study of human relationships, the film is very much about the torment of love. In such a process, the film could become the greatest work of art that post-war European production, inspiring passionate acclaim.

Of course, it influenced generations of modern filmmakers like Scorsese and Tarantino. Both pay homage to themselves by quoting from Godard’s film loud, slow, and repetitive. It is a film that is tragic, romantic, but brilliant, telling the story of the actual film process.

The Odyssey

In the remake of Homer’s Odyssey, Jerry Prokosch comes up with animal energy by Palance. Apart from the brusque American producer, Contempt itself also dealt with the conflict between the producer and European director Fritz Lang. Lang plays himself, ironically, with Prokosch hiring a French screenwriter, Paul, to rewrite Lang’s script. Through a series of partial misunderstandings, Paul takes the job partially in buying an apartment for his wife, Camille.

However, in selling her talent, he lost her status in his eyes. Camille thinks her husband allows the predatory and powerful Prokosch to seduce her. Ironically, it’s not enough to protect her from such harm. In the show that made him a star, Piccoli chronicles all the nuances of the defensive snobbery of an intellectual-turned-hacker who feels outclassed. Godard refused to budge beyond such a compromise.

He said that his actor never bothered to watch his movie. With no sign of shooting problems ruining the smooth running of the finished product, Godard famously stated that a film must have a beginning, middle, and end. Regardless of not necessarily in such order, humiliation is always inherent in the traditional order. He compiles the film as a three-act tragedy that he makes well.

The first part takes place in the quiet back area of the Cinecittà Roma studio and the producer’s house. The second part acts as the heart of the film and becomes a long sequence in the couple’s apartment. When the camera tracks a married couple moving in a leisurely motion while walking in mid-sentence, psychological realism occurs in the other characters.

Physical Imitation

In such a physical imitation of the patient, the camera gives an artistic impression of operating in real-time. Each actor circled each character. Paul felt that Camille’s love had changed since that morning, insulting and colder. He is annoyed with her but still loves her. They kept arguing, picking up scabs, retreating, making up, until they found themselves in a more hostile yet dark room.

With the crushing power of sequence play, Contempt becomes a very torturous production. Although not used to working on such a large scale, Godard was annoyed by the circus atmosphere the paparazzi created that followed Bardot to Capri. At her peak of popularity, Bardot arrived with her last boyfriend, actor Sami Frey, who further irritated Godard and liked to get the full attention of the leading ladies.

On the other hand, the filmmaker also doesn’t get along with his wife, an ordinary star, Anna Karina. He was very lonely during filming and it was unusual for him to reminisce. In essence, Godard can make those around him feel awkward. He uses these people to create tension in the script. By antagonizing Palance for his refusal to consider the actor’s ideas, it only gives him physical instructions.

Desperately, Palance kept calling his agent in America to get him out. On the other hand, Lang is not feeling well and has to stop his participation, despite being the only match with Godard.

The Layers of History

The special character in Contempt is that it exists both as a realistic story. It serves as an iconic metaphor for connecting its layers of history. When he tossed the film can in disdain, Palance swept over like Zeus’s chariot. He being a discus thrower, has feelings for Greek culture as Lang watches dryly. Bardot, on the other hand, is wearing a black wig, a temporary replacement for Karina and Penelope.

Piccoli’s character wears a hat in a bathtub in imitation of Godard himself. His bath towels show a roman gown. Lang is a walking symbol of the golden age of cinema and the survival of his anecdotal, calamities calling Dietrich into a showdown with Goebbels. Meanwhile, Casa Malaparte is a prison and a temple, while the CinemaScope camera watches it all. It approaches the dummy in an opening shot, angled, down, and toward the audience like one eye on the ceiling.

If Lang’s monocle or the eyes of the gods in Lang’s cinema serves as an acronym for the primary color theme on purpose, then Bardot in her lush yellow robes on Capri’s balcony embodies all the lost heavens. In the last part, students of Le Corbusier step into the enchanting Casa Malaparte like a virtual temple for vacation plus Odyssey shooting locations. Apart from having no escape, Capri becomes a perilous nirvana, where natural beauty, demeanor, and luxury all meet to destroy a marriage. It brings a tragedy that every character cannot avoid.

The Language of Cinema

When it comes to language, Contempt is also a film about language. Francesca meticulously conveys life in the new global economy as German, French, Italian, and English speakers spit the words out. While making sharp political comments about the power relations between Europe and the United States, it is more practical, that polyglot becomes a strategy in deterring film producers.

Even more so than 1963, what makes the film so unique as an experience is a way it stimulates the intelligence and senses of the audience. Mercilessly accommodating discussions of German and Homeric Romantic poetry, dense and complex meditations on the role of the gods in modern life, the creative process, and the spread of CinemaScope, Lang sneers that it is only good at showing funerals and snakes.

However, the beauty of the cinematographic composition, which is thirsty for saturated backgrounds and color backgrounds, belies such a thing. Godard is the first film loader who is passionate about digesting all cinema. He makes cinema itself his subject. However, he also picks up the film by reference to film buffs, gaining authority and truth from his familiarity with the filmmaking business.

Regardless of being far from being the witty part, self-referencing about films moves audiences because basically, Godard makes his audience care about two likable characters. Both characters have a high bond, determined to waste opportunities for happiness to result in tragedy.

Bardot and Camille

At such a moment, Camille wore her brunette wig in the apartment scene. She tries to get Paul to think she’s smarter than usual. In avoiding the blonde bimbo stereotype, at one point, Paul asked Camille why she looked so pensive. She replies that believe it or not, she is thinking and does it surprise him. The inequalities in the sequence between the two characters begin to painfully unfold.

Camille sees herself as a sexy trophy and Paul sees himself as a breadwinner and a brain. Whatever their newfound disdain, condescension always seems to come to the fore. When they were alone in the Prokosch house, she told Paul he was a complete idiot. Clearly, she said that is why she married a twenty-eight-year-old stupid typist. At first, Godard wanted Kim Novak and Frank Sinatra to play wife and husband.

As per Bardot’s obedient wishes, Novak’s muse qualities in her best acting performances. She is reassured when the polite but tentative ex-secretary is stepped into the larger world of glamor by her husband. Camille being Bardot doesn’t spoil the actress’s persona in any other way. However, Godard claims that he takes her as a deal trying to get Bardot to become Camille.

Experimental Demonstration

The tentative but experimental quality of Contempt sees what the audience doesn’t see. When humiliation and anger don’t know exactly where they will go, grudge has a playful tone. It’s as if fully wishing for the sake of returning to compassion every time. When Camille makes various conciliatory gestures, due to her insecurities, she refuses such comfort. Paul is a man who worries about thrush whenever Camille starts to forgive.

In being gentle again, he won’t accept her and keeps asking why she no longer loves him until the hypothesis comes true. In short, Paul is more interested in confirming his nightmare than in rehabilitating the damage. The more the audience struggles, the further the audience sinks. The psychology of the film demonstrates a rich understanding of reciprocal involvement. Together with the fact that trying to change someone else’s opinion, is inherent in contempt.

It insults itself like fighting in the sand. Disgust and contempt for the audience create a sense of humiliation and shame in the audience. If the audience agrees with the suitability assessment, i.e. feels the insult is right, it warrants anger or resentment if it feels it can’t be true. In such a frame, Paul agrees with Camille despite his constant hatred of himself from intellectual circles. He considers his wife completely unfair, makes him angry, and even slaps him while destroying his shaky self-esteem.

Godard’s Limitation

In Contempt, the audience continues to watch a sequence for another twenty-five minutes. The sequence occurs when a man slaps a woman, ending the scene with partner abuse until the case is closed. However, the adjustment and consequences of the audience slap digest, the film records the process of disappointment. It is also a series of seductive charms. Nature, primary colors, luxury items, and Bardot are just examples of such a range of charms.

When the film marks the first time Godard goes beyond the lovable city poetry, he expresses his romantic love. It’s not ironic to its landscape because the cypress trees in the Prokosch estate frame Piccoli and Bardot beautifully. In the final moment, assistant director Lang calls out to the crew in silence after the camera switches to a calm sea of static. Capri sits on the Mediterranean like a jewel in a primus, the classicism of the sky and the sea denying the blows of man.

In urgency, the stars and budget are relatively large. Based on the famous author’s novel, limits Godard’s experimental collage side. It forces him to focus on linear narratives in his process to be mandatory but free. Drawing more psychologically complex characters rests on clear motivation and causality.


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