Since I am sharing life with a Cannes Film Festival freshly selected woman director, and since I will be joining her to Cannes this year, as a silly piece of simultaneously under and overdressed accessory, seeing the film on which the festival’s latest poster is based remains my only chance of hiding a conversation starter up my sleeve. 

Le Mépris (Contempt / Disprețul) couldn’t have had a better title. Godard is clearly mocking my Cannes thrills. 

Yes, as usual, it’s a film about films. Can’t get any more clear than that from it’s first frame, when the film’s credits are narrated by a voice over (who’s even delivering a quote from A.Bazin to fantastic disconcerting effect), while a camera tracks in towards the audience. The effect is brilliant. BUT. It’s also a film whose key to understanding lays almost completely outside it, in its wild tales of production springing from the ideological war between Godard as the Artist and B.Bardot and the film’s producers as the Sell-outs. 

In an almost sadistic fashion, Godard wanted to make a big-budget star-led film just so he can make the complete opposite, an endless commentary on, as he puts it, “the story of castaways of the Western world…who one day reach a mysterious island, whose mystery is the inexorable lack of mystery.”

  • It’s a film where Fritz Lang acts as himself, a film director. (Lang, at the time, was apparently half blind). Meta!
  • After main shooting ended, Godard was forced by producers to shoot and insert extra scenes showing nude instances of Bardot.
  • Mirroring to some extent a couple’s subjective time experience from the bedroom scene in his previous Breathless, there’s a 34 minute scene between Bardot and her character’s husband, the tormented screenwriter.
  • sadistic use of same music theme over and over, at times to the detriment of dialogue that goes under, makes the case for the ceaseless attack on your poor suspended disbelief. 
  • a performer sings on a stage, and four characters talk from time to time. The song performed is cut abruptly, enough to let the character say a line, only to be resumed immediately after.

So yeah, I’m game, I’ll be hard, I’ll engage people directly on the Western world’s mysterious lack of mystery. But then I’ll just have me some of that naked bodies on display out there, be it art or not.