Friday, September 20, 2019

Le mépris

There are a fair number of people out there who have this idea of foreign films as being pretentious arthouse stuff. Part of the reason for this is that there are actually a fair number of foreign films treated as all-time classics that are really not a good pick to start watching foreign movies with. A good example of this is Contempt.

Jack Palance plays Jeremy Prokosch, an American producer working in Rome on a new production of Homer's Odyssey, to be directed by Fritz Lang (playing himself). He's having trouble, so he's looking to hire a script doctor in the form of Frenchman Paul Javal (Michel Piccoli). So Paul's wife Camille (Brigitte Bardot) has sort of put her own life on hold to be with Paul in Rome.

After watching some rushes, Jeremy plans to go back to his villa, offering Paul and Camille a ride in his convertible. Paul doesn't say much, basically allowing Camille to get in the car alone with Jeremy. She resents this greatly, thinking that Jeremy is trying to seduce her and that Paul is letting her probably to get a better deal on the script. So later in the day when Camille returns to her and Paul's apartment, the two of them get in a big argument about it and a bunch of other philosophical stuff.

They argue for what seems an interminable length of time, pretty much lasting the rest of the movie even though it's not all at their apartment. They go out to see a crappy stage show, and Jeremy invites them to Capri where he and Fritz are going to be doing some of the filming. The philosophical discussion also continues among the men, with Jeremy's real belief that Ulysses spent a decade on the odyssey mostly because he didn't want to go home to Penelope. Paul agrees, but Fritz doesn't. Paul, meanwhile, gets the impression that his own life is beginning to go like Ulysses'.

There's a lot of talking going on in Contempt, and frankly, I found it tedious, especially the argument at the apartment between Paul and Camille. I also really hated the ending, which I won't spoil. The one positive of the film was the cinematography. This looked like a restored print, as the color was eye-popping and the scenery of Capri was absolutely gorgeous. But that's not enough for me to save the rest of the movie.

Amazon is offering a Blu-ray of Contempt, so you can watch and judge for yourself. Oddly enough, the TCM Shop doesn't seem to have the movie available.

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