Contempt is one of the most highly regarded movies that Jean-Luc Godard has directed and not only is it both indicative of his classic Godard authorship, it is audacious and ambitious in his build-up of tension and use of dramatic proportionality. Moreover, it stars two icons of cinema, the legendary actress Brigitte Bardot who plays the teasing wife of a screenwriter. It also stars an iconic director, none other than Fritz Lang who plays himself directing a screen interpretation of Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’. Having known this much information about the film, it was guaranteed to be an enticing watch that far from fell short of expectation. Among the classical ‘Godardian’ inferences and metaphors from literature and cinema alike, there is a desire to create an almost ‘Hitchcockian’ sense of tension and drama in the possibilities of what might happen and what might have happened. This attempt is best seen through Godard’s use of music as well as the classic slow-zooming camerawork during an intense monologue or scene that is similar to such.
“Paul Javal is a writer who is hired to make a script for a new movie about Ulysses more commercial, which is to be directed by Fritz Lang and produced by Jeremy Prokosch. But because he let his wife drive with Prokosch and he is late, she believes, he uses her as a sort of present for Prokosch to receive a better payment. As a result, underlying marital issues are unraveled and in tandem with this, issues of love, sex and marriage are challenged”
Bardot’s performance in the film is both as talent-filled and sexually alluring as anyone may have expected but as aesthetic and audacious as it is, Godard and Bardot manage to beautifully tread the line that can so easily be crossed into the territory of the inappropriate and that of poor judgment. Many films that tackle the topic of love & sex are misguided in their priorities and instead find the necessity to be crude and vulgar, but there is no beauty in this and in many cases no truth in it either. As Contempt does not do this, for example, you never know whether Bardot’s character, Camille, ever really cheats on her husband and the reason for this is because it is not important to the story, it is not necessary and so it is not there. This judgment is where we see the true genius of Godard’s work and this contributes to the already adorned reputation of the movie.
To conclude, I will say that this film is an exhibition as Truffaut proclaimed of how a director’s cinematic career should escalate. He said that each film should be a continuation of the last, and this is the case as we have seen with Godard’s career. His films are all growing exponentially as Godard is discovering himself as a filmmaker. For this reason and many others, I give the film 7.5/10
As a third piece I thought it apt to pay homage to one of the true legends of cinema, Stanley Kubrick. To achieve what a legend such as Kubrick has, is tribute enough to such a talent. However, many of his later classics subjugate the brilliance of films like Paths of Glory (and Dr. Strangelove) which was arguably Kubrick’s first masterful classic. When Kubrick’s name is mentioned it is often in laud of films such as ‘A Clockwork Orange’, ‘Full Metal Jacket’ or ‘The Shining’, however, Paths of Glory is a truly grand production worth every inkling of praise it has and will ever receive.
“This powerful, fact-based absurdity-of-war film stars Kirk Douglas as a commanding officer who defends three scapegoats on trial for a failed offensive that occurred within the French Army in 1916.”
I would argue that what makes the film a must-see is it’s riveting fusion of the dichotomy between being both a visual essay concerning the outlandishness and unjust essence of war with the compelling tale of Colonel Dax. A commanding officer who embarks on the defence of these ‘scapegoats’ that have been accused of cowardice in the face of an adverse attack in which the odds were overwhelmingly against their favour. Given the year, 1957, what makes the film a truly brilliant picture is it’s believability and emotion, it was completed with the same diligence and true-to-life prowess of Kubrick’s ‘Full Metal Jacket’ . Although there are clear technical and aesthetic hindrances of Paths of Glory (that could only improve with improvement of technology) in comparison to Full Metal Jacket, it has a visceral core of emotion that Kubrick has so deftly conjured throughout his plethora of creations.
Paths of Glory was far from a commercial success in 1957, I can only assume that the issue of war at the time was still a subject perhaps undesirable to the viewer. This could be because many, understandably, wanted to shun and forget the horrors of both wars that had undoubtedly affected their lives and families. However, with the benefit of hindsight, the film has become a war classic and appropriately so, as there were a mere handful of films that truly challenged the hubris and perplexing nature of war. The audacity of Kubrick’s classic can only be best summarized by its well-known tagline: “Never has the screen thrust so deeply into the guts of war!”
To conclude this review of the film, I would urge anyone who is curious about the nature of war to watch Paths of Glory for its chilling honesty and laudable aesthetics. As far as a rating goes, it deserves no less than an 8/10.