Sunday, January 4, 2009

CONTEMPT (Jean Luc-Godard, 1963, France) The camera turns slowly towards the audience making us accomplice in Jean Luc-Godard’s celluloid indictment, a profound conviction of an Industry that devours Art and regurgitates prosaic camphoraceous pollution. The absurd plot is frustratingly apropos concerning modern cinematic values: an idiotic Producer rules his investment like a Fascist, an unimaginative puerile lowbrow who believes he can re-write Homer’s Odyssey to make it more exciting. Pugilistically portrayed by Jack Palance, Producer Jeremy Prokosch subverts the introspective writer Paul, which begins to erode Paul’s relationship with his beautiful wife Camille. Godard journeys into a 24 frames-per-second fantasy and reveals the granite gods of cinema, those unflinching executives who know nothing of profound revelation, only the subtle texture of money, who hold the golden monopoly on expression. Fritz Lang is the director at odds with the producer and ultimately the writer, as Paul’s integrity is questioned chasing the almighty dollar, wallowing in the superficial trappings of success. Godard beautifully films in Cinemascope and utilizes long takes and tracking shots, letting the characters talk and contemplate with few cuts. The masterful cinematography soon reflects a claustrophobic nightmare, the 2:35:1 aspect ratio cramped into a tiny apartment, expressing Paul and Camille’s continental drift and tectonic friction. Godard privileges the audience with a glimpse of Hollywood machinations and stupidity; as the great Fritz Lang, the inane Jeremy Prokosch, and Paul watch the dailies, Jeremy becomes increasingly violent because he doesn’t understand the film. He threatens Lang with reduced financing unless more sex scenes are interwoven into the narrative. Eventually, Lang works to complete his film while Paul attempts to retain his own identity by not selling-out; Camille and Jeremy drive off, joining together in a twisted mass of steel, breathlessly immersed in the putrid essence of blood and gasoline. It would be funny if it weren’t so true. (A)

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