Thursday, January 15, 2009

Movie Review - Contempt (1963)

"'The cinema,' said André Bazin, 'substitutes for our gaze a world more in harmony with our desires.' Contempt is a story of that world."

This quote is recited to us during the opening of Contempt, a film by the oft-heralded Jean-luc Godard. We are meant to be shown an intertwining of reality and what we wish was real. If wishes were in the business of coming to life, this would be a great work of biting criticism of writers, film itself, and the way we interact with each other. In reality, I don't know what the fuck I just watched.

I'll be up front with the fact I didn't make it to the end of this film. The events that transpire in the last 20 minutes will never be known to me, unless I decide to masochistically view it for the sake of my readership. What I can comment on, however, is the hour and twenty minutes I had the privilege of yawning through watching. I understand the concept of blending fact and fiction. I get that sometimes the best way to illustrate a point is to use a film as a giant metaphor. Other movies have done this much better. But the characters in this film are bi-polar. I could never tell what parts of their dialogue were fact and what was meant to make a larger point.

During one scene that starts off normal enough, the couple who Godard tries to pass off as the main characters in the film are talking on a boat. A few seconds go by, and then we see the camera filming them. We see the set, complete with a director, assistants and film equipment. It's all well and good if I understand what Godard's going for, but I don't know if I'm watching the actors in the film play themselves acting in this movie, or I'm supposed to think their life is the movie. Or something. At this point, the film makes no fucking sense and I just don't give a shit anymore. If Godard really wanted to condemn the film industry for not having the creative balls to make high art, then way to go, jackass. You made a shitty high art film that makes me want to watch The Mummy Returns instead.

This is the scene where Brigitte Bardot wonders where the fuck her movie went.

Requiring the audience to work to understand the full meaning of your film is a noble cause. Making fun of them for doing so isn't. It's Godard's version of pretentiousness that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and if I didn't know better, a distorted view of French New Wave. But before you lambaste me for not understanding French cinema, I should point out that I watch a lot of fucking movies. Louis Malle's body of work is loads more interesting than anything Godard could muster, and Malle's films have more depth and meaning without resorting to mind-fuckery to express it. There's a world of difference betwen the two, and I prefer an intelligent, well thought out script over a director playing peek-a-boo with whoever's unlucky enough to get stuck in a theater showing his blight on society.

And you should know that I didn't write this review. I only played the part of the reviewer who had to waste a whole night throwing up in his mouth while watching Godard take a shit on his fans. Skip this movie unless you just want to see Brigitte Bardot's naked ass a lot. That might sound tempting, but trust me, it's not worth the effort. Here, I just saved you two hours.

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