Contempt (1963)

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.

Man With a Movie Camera (1929)

Welcome to what will likely be the shortest movie review I will ever write!  I just can’t think of very much to say about Man With a Movie Camera, which is odd since it is such an exquisite piece of film.  There isn’t a plot for me to write about, it’s just a 68-minute montage of scenes about life in Soviet Russia.  People go to work, people die, babies are born, people get hurt, they have fun.  I can’t critique the acting since there are no actors or actresses.  I would talk about the editing since there is plenty of that, but it’s hard to articulate since it really needs to be seen.  If you are interested in video/film editing, you must see Man With a Movie Camera.  It’s easily the best editing to come out of the silent film era.  There’s a lot of cutting edge stuff going on here like trick photography, double exposure, and dutch angles.  In a way, I think this movie was rather prophetic.  The theme seems to be that cameras can be anywhere and capture anything.  That was a little more difficult to pull off in 1929 because movie cameras were so huge and difficult to maneuver then, but 80 years later in an age where just about everyone has a camera built into their cell phone, that theme is certainly very true.  I think the best way to describe Man With a Movie Camera is that it’s an experience.  Just sit back and go along for the ride and never mind that it’s not a conventional movie, it’s a fascinating journey to go on.