Writer Paul Javal (Michel Piccoli) is hired by American film producer Jeremy Prokosch (Jack Palance) to re-work a script for a screen adaptation of The Odyssey, which is to be directed by the legendary Fritz Lang. But as Paul becomes more engrossed in writing the screenplay, his wife Camille (Brigitte Bardot) begins to resent him, as she believes he’s pushing her into Jeremy’s arms for his own benefit.
I’ve noticed the more we doubt, the more we cling to a false lucidity, in hope of rationalizing what feelings have made murky.
By the time French New Wave director Jean Luc-Godard made Contempt, he already had a number of successful films behind him, such as Breathless and Vivre sa vie. His 1963 film, starring one of the biggest stars in the world at the time, Brigitte Bardot, proved to be the most commercially successful of his career. But despite that, the director didn’t enjoy making the big-budget film, having to compromise on a number of things, including having to film in CinemaScope. The frustrations that come with making a movie are mirrored in Contempt, as the writer not only has to try to please both director and producer during production but also his wife once he leaves the set.
While Contempt is set against the world of filmmaking, much of the film focuses on a marriage falling apart at the seams. In fact, there’s one lengthy scene (lasting more than 30 minutes), that takes a particularly intimate look at Paul and Camille having an extensive argument, showing the couple struggling to reconcile and compromise their views to save the state of their marriage. The crumbling relationship itself parallels the adaptation Paul is writing for Fritz Lang’s film with art imitating life, which is essentially what Godard is showing in Contempt, as he deals with the conflict of making a commercial film to please his producers. With a hauntingly beautiful score by Georges Delerue that fully sets the tone, Contempt is an absorbing film that examines the creative process and how it can affect one person and the people around them.
Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard
Starring: Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance, Michel Piccoli, Giorgia Moll, Fritz Lang