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Le Mépris
cast: Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance, Michel Piccoli, Giorgia Moll, and Fritz Lang

director: Jean Luc Godard

99 minutes (15) 1963
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 3/10
reviewed by Mike Philbin
Based on the novel by Alberto Moravia, Le Mépris tells the tale of screenwriter Paul Javal (Piccoli), who is flown to Capri to rewrite the screenplay for Fritz Lang's (as himself) new movie about Ulysses. Lang shows the rushes of what amounts to a "fucking German art film" and the sneering loudmouth American producer Prokosch (Palance) wants Javal to commercialise the film; give it form, structure, make it sellable. Rightly or wrongly, Javal convinces his wife Camille (Bardot) to accept a lift from Prokosch in his flash two-seater sports car and there the trouble starts.
   Le Mépris is French for 'contempt', and following this faux pas on the part of Javal, his wife goes on a one-woman crusade to destroy their marriage, utterly. This could have been a great film, but it is stylistically so far up its own arse that all useful storytelling has been overshadowed by a (avant-garde) pre-occupation with stupid camera angles, artistic posing and standard Godard-sponsored overacting. Maybe it's that the actors are supposed to be speaking in many different languages and the translator is supposed to be the verbal shield between the protagonists. Whatever, it doesn't work. I don't know what it is about Godard that made him think his stylistic meanderings were more important than the story he was supposedly telling, but his films have aged very badly. They are almost unwatchable these days and that (unfortunately for the cast he has assembled) includes Le Mépris.
   The DVD extras are as lacklustre as the film itself: Paparazzi is a terribly low-sound-volume appraisal of Brigitte Bardot the black-and-white covergirl hounded by the press; Bardot et Godard - a rather heavyweight analysis of the making of the film and cinema itself, strictly for the film students out there; and even the theatrical trailer's an odd bird with Bardot and Piccoli rattling on throughout the length of the thing.
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