jack’s review published on Letterboxd:
Contempt, arguably one of, if not the singular most bold and audacious entry in Jean-Luc Godard's expressive filmography, is a film about movies, the love and passion we have for them, and the unrelenting consequences that they have on us, whether it be good or bad, detrimental or not. But Contempt isn't just about the moving pictures that capture our eyes, make us think, and bask in their respected light. It is a film of innocence and the stripping of it; at the core of the picture, lie a young, married couple who are shown to have a strained relationship. Contempt is a film about an image, the image of the camera. The distortion of the world, captured through the gorgeous Cinemascope lens by Raoul Coutard, Godard's main cinematographer; the world of Contempt is dying and it's clear that we've had our parts in it, yet we're so disillusioned with the ideas of fame and fortune to even realize it.
Godard places our characters in Italy; buildings are crumbling, the walls covered with ripped and teared movie posters of Hatari! and Psycho, and a huge creative restraint has a huge grasp on the film that's being made. Fritz Lang, played by himself, is hired to direct an adaptation of Homer's The Odyssey, a book of such expansive detail and in depth discussion, and the producer of the film, Jeremy Prokosch, a hotheaded and power-hungry monster, is angered by the footage Lang has captured; Prokosch is only amused by the bodies of naked women, to which he gleefully smiles at and requests more of. Contempt is the battle of studio vs. director, where studios refuse to except the director's creative vision unless it has scenes removed and new ones added in order to help profit the financing of that picture (something the studios did to Godard with this movie). Lang and Prokosch hold this picture differently: Lang, a tender and detailed perfectionist and Prokosch, a money making, big boss destroyer. Both represent the change in film (Lang the old way, Prokosch the new) and this is Godard flipping off the studios; somehow, Godard knew where film would be in the Modern age --a vast dumping ground of sex, nudity, and explosion-- and that makes Contempt all the more melancholic. It represents the film of producers who want to make money and the crafters who can't seem to have that freedom.
But what makes Contempt truly devestating is our married couple and their story; at the beginning of Contempt, we see our couple in bed. Camille and Paul are free, moving as though nothing mattered. They have each other and that's all they need. They talk to each other like naive children; questions of "Do you love me?" and cheeky glances at each other show them at the purest state of their romance. Then, Paul gets the chance to rewrite the Odyseey script to Prokosch's liking, something that will change their course forever. They've become entangled with film life, choosing the Cinema over each other. The dreams of pretending and changing appearance consume them, the money is constantly brought up in an attempt to bring each other back to reality, but they've gone too far deep into their self-aborbing nature. The other notices the changes that their spouse goes though (Camille adopts a black bob wig and a distain for everything, including Paul and Paul adopts a hat and a cigar, emulating Bogart, and losing the ability to see anything else besides the movies) and yet, they cannot see what toxicity the film has brought to them, decaying at their childish love like an animal clawing at the door. They've become so enwrapped in the idea of fabrication that they can't remember the people they've become. Both meet grizzly ends, one realizing their ways, the other finding it too late to leave this demonic dream. Contempt is a quiet bite on the arm, but the pain spreads rapidly. Each scene is Godard's middle finger to everything wrong with the artform and Camille and Paul's marriage is the root of the problem; Contempt is the most violent film ever made, a subtle swift kick in the stomach and a slow, painful, decaying tumor of destruction. But most of all, it's a melancholic glimpse into the purest of people falling so far from their past, and the fact that they cannot see this change until it's too late.