The Aesthetic and Formal Challenges of Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘Contempt’

Vague Visages • Wave Faces

michel-piccoli-le-mepris

Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt (Le Mépris, 1963) revolves around the fissures and overlaps between several artistic forms: Homer’s The Odyssey and its fictional filmic adaptation, Alberto Moravia’s 1954 source novel, and finally Contempt itself, incorporating all of the above. Rather than making gestures to enforce the suspension of disbelief, Godard’s film foregrounds its role in this complicated dialectical network; specifically, it announces itself immediately and loudly as an object of cinema. The film’s opening minutes feature a voice-over narrator reading the cast and crew credits, and a shot of a tracking shot of Francesca (Giorgia Moll). This opening resists the pact of fictional film, which strives for the importance of “building false reality.” Contempt declares itself outright as a combination of dialectical strategies wherein cinema is the central method (or, quite literally, the lens). The opening sequence concludes with a reading of André Bazin’s quote, “Cinema shows us a world…

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