Blind Spot 07: Le Mépris (1963), dir. Jean-Luc Godard

Le Mepris Brigitte Bardot Naked

this post is part of the blind spot series, a feature first seen on The Matinee

Le Mépris (1963)

directed by Jean-Luc Godard
starring Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli, Jack Palance and Fritz Lang

Paul Javal (Michel Piccoli) is a screenwriter working with director Fritz Lang (who plays himself) on an adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey. Jack Palance plays an American producer whose commercial concerns clash with Lang’s artistic vision, and Brigitte Bardot is Paul’s wife, who is falling out of love with her husband. Their decaying marriage is the emotional core of the film, while the making of The Odyssey provides the space for Godard’s commentary on filmmaking, art, business, and life wonderings.

Le Mépris Brigitte Bardot
Le Mépris Brigitte Bardot

I love you totally, tenderly, tragically.
Paul Javal, in Le Mépris (1963)

As with most of my experiences with Godard and the french new wave, Le Mépris (1963) was not a smooth watch for me. Though I was expecting a film that is simultaneously aloof and too aware of itself, something about this one frustrated and bored me. The first culprit is undoubtedly the use of the translator. Because there are three different languages between the characters – english, french, and german – there’s literally a translator in every scene where they co-exist, repeating every line that is spoken. While I usually find the use of multiple languages in film interesting, this was frankly just exhausting.

I went in rather intrigued about Lang’s role and did not come out disappointed. His grounding presence was a compelling counterweight to the otherworldliness of Bardot and Piccoli; whilst Palance’s character felt vulgar and ordinary in a funny but disconcerting way. Bardot and Piccoli had an effortless allure that shines particularly bright when it’s just the two of them, but in the end it wasn’t enough for me.

I’ve noticed the more we doubt, the more we cling to a false lucidity, in hope of rationalizing what feelings have made murky.
— Camille Javal, in Le Mépris (1963)

Because the thing about these films, is that if you can’t get into them and feel them, if you can’t understand them, you’re left with two hours of characters saying things they seemingly don’t mean, mocking you with references you don’t get. When this happens, there’s very little to hold on to besides gorgeous imagery, an iconic score, and poetic dialogue. It’s an aesthetically pleasing experience, but not a very fulfilling one.

Le Mepris Movie Poster
Le Mépris (1963)

Rating: 3.0 Stars
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Writen by Alberto Moravia (novel)
Starring Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance, Michel Piccoli, Fritz Lang
Running Time: 1h43min Genre: Drama, French New Wave

Synopsis A philistine in the art film business, Jeremy Prokosch is a producer unhappy with the work of his director. Prokosch has hired Fritz Lang (as himself) to direct an adaptation of The Odyssey, but when it seems that the legendary filmmaker is making a picture destined to bomb at the box office, he brings in a screenwriter to energise the script. The professional intersects with the personal when a rift develops between the writer and his wife.

IMDb | Movie Trailer
Watch with MUBI | Buy on Amazon | Get the book on Book Depository

Previous Blind Spot Entries:
A Place in The Sun (1951) | January
Love With The Proper Stranger (1963) | February
Letter From An Unknown Woman (1948) | March
La Notte (1961) | April
Metropolis (1927) | May
Paths of Glory (1957) | June

Have you seen Le Mépris (1963)? How was your own Blind Spot this month?
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4 Comments

  1. July 31, 2018 / 8:30 PM

    This is one of my favorite films by Godard not just for its visuals but also for its interest in cinema as there’s still a few films of Godard’s New Wave period of 1960-1967 that I want to finish up on. He’s not an easy filmmaker to digest to but he’s really one of a kind.

    • August 1, 2018 / 8:38 PM

      No arguing with that, he is unique! He’s honestly a hit or miss for me, sometimes I love his films, sometimes I really can’t stand them. Usually I end up enjoying them all on subsequent viewings, so I’m hoping to revisit this one in the future.

  2. joel
    August 14, 2018 / 2:05 AM

    I’m variable on foreign films in general for many of the reasons you listed but I really liked this film. It was rangy and a bit wondering but worth sticking with. I think Bardot might be the best I’ve ever seen her in this.

    • August 29, 2018 / 1:30 PM

      Oh she was great here, no doubt about that. Happy you liked it!

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