In Contempt, Paul Javal (Michel Piccoli) is hired by American film producer Jeremy Prokosch (Jack Palance) to rework the script for an adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey, which is to be directed by Fritz Lang. On his first day of work, Paul’s wife Camille (Brigitte Bardot) stops by, but Camille begins to suspect that he is using her to win points with Jeremy. She soon informs Paul that she doesn’t love him anymore, but Paul convinces her to join him in Capri for filming, hoping the trip would help them rekindle their romance. While in Capri, Camille sets it up so Paul would find her alone with Jeremy. When Paul finds them, Camille tells him that although she used to respect him, she can’t stand him anymore because she feels he traded her to Jeremy to work on the film. Of course, Paul denies this and offers to quit the film and go home if she’ll stay with him. But Camille doesn’t bend and heads off to Rome with Jeremy.
I can sum up my thoughts on Contempt in one word: disappointing. You have no idea how much I really wanted to like this movie. I thought this was sure to instantly become one of my favorites. And really, there’s no reason I should have thought otherwise. I love French New Wave, so I couldn’t wait to see what I’d heard was one of the definitive French New Wave films. I love Brigitte Bardot and I knew Contempt as one of the movies she’s most remembered for. And since I knew this was a movie about making movies, I figured it’d be right up my alley since I love movies like Sunset Blvd. and The Bad and the Beautiful. Fritz Lang even makes an appearance!
But when I finally got to see Contempt, I just could not get into it. I saw it for the first time a few months back when TCM played it. But since TCM played a print that was dubbed into English and had awful picture quality, I thought maybe I’d like it more if I rented the Criterion Collection DVD since I knew that would be in French and would have better picture quality. So I added it to my Netflix queue and they sent the Criterion Collection version. For the life of me, I still couldn’t get into the movie. The story bored me. If I wanted to listen to discussions about how to interpret Homer’s Odyssey, I’d visit a ninth grade English class. I simply couldn’t get myself care about any of the characters. Bardot had amazing screen presence and I usually love to just watch her work on-screen, but her being in this movie wasn’t enough to keep me interested. The whole thing was just painfully dull to me. Sometimes I end up coming around to a movie a little while down the road, so maybe in a few years, I’ll see something in Contempt I didn’t see before. But right now, it simply did nothing for me at all. I will say one thing for it, though: it did have some stunning visuals.