Jean-Luc Godard

What’s on TCM: March 2011

Ah, March.  March always feels like a bit of a slow month just because it’s hard to keep up the kind of momentum that 31 Days of Oscar has.  But it’s always been a little bit of a welcome lull to me since 31 Days of Oscar can be such a marathon.  But there are still definitely some big highlights to look forward to this month.  Namely, I’m most looking forward to Jean Harlow as Star of the Month.  If you’ve been wanting to see more of her movies, now is the perfect time because TCM will be playing nearly all of her most important movies.  Also worth noting is that instead of having just one guest programmer this month, there will be many.  On Mondays and Thursdays this month, prime time will consist of movies chosen by TCM employees and they have made a lot of very excellent choices.  Now, with no further ado, let’s get onto my highlights for the month!


A Woman is a Woman (1961)

A Woman is a Woman has a pretty straightforward premise: Woman wants to have a baby, her boyfriend doesn’t, conflict ensues.  Anna Karina plays Angela, a stripper who desperately wants to have a baby.  Angela lives with her boyfriend Emile (Jean-Claude Brialy), but he is in no hurry to get married or have a baby.  Of course, the couple bickers and they argue back and forth in their preferred method of using book titles.  Angela threatens to have a baby with the first man to come along.  When she threatens to go to Emile’s best friend Alfred (Jean-Paul Belmondo), who has a thing for Angela, Emile calls her bluff and invites Alfred over himself.  Angela and Emile’s fight becomes even more heated and the next day, Alfred declares his love for Angela.  But Angela hopes to work things out with Emile and Emile is left to decide whether or not he wants to marry Angela.

I’ve been trying to watch more Jean-Luc Godard movies lately.  So far, I have only seen three: Breathless (which I liked), Contempt (which I hated), and now A Woman is a Woman (which I really liked).  The plot for A Woman is a Woman doesn’t really sound like it’d make a great comedy, but Godard totally pulled it off here.  This is a completely different side of Godard from what I’d seen before, it’s so playful.  I particularly loved the part where Jean-Paul Belmondo’s character makes a joke about Breathless being on TV tonight.  It’s wonderful enough as it is to have a joke about Breathless in a Jean-Luc Godard movie, but it’s just genius when the joke is delivered by Michel Poiccard himself, Jean-Paul Belmondo.  And I loved the cameo from Jeanne Moreau and how Alfred asked her how Jules and Jim is coming along.  Gotta love French New Wave humor.  The performances were great, I loved the direction, the use of vibrant colors was fantastic, there simply isn’t anything I didn’t like about this movie.

Unfortunately, the Criterion Collection DVD of this movie has gone out of print, but it if you have Netflix, it is still available to watch instantly through there.  It’s only 85 minutes long, so if you want something fun to watch but doesn’t require a big time commitment (which is precisely what I was looking for when I decided to watch it), this is a great choice.

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.