Week 6 Blog Post

As we all must know by now, Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt is a movie not really based totally on a plot or a narrative through line, but it is based on an idea and relies on mise en scene to propose that idea. First of all, the films title is Contempt, which means hatred or disgust towards something, or believing one is superior than something else. Perhaps, Godard uses this as a title to show the contempt Camille feels for Paul and the estrangement of their relationship, or maybe Godard is showing the contempt of American producers and the clash between commercialism and art. There are so many elements of this film that can be deeply analyzed including the cinematography, and the mise en scene, that really show how this movie is all about contempt and not necessarily about a strong plot.

The first scene in the movie shows Paul and Camille in bed together and one continuous shot shows them in conversation. Godard intentionally messes with the tonality of this scene by changing the tint from dark yellow to bright back to dark blue. Instantly, after one scene, we see that this film will use cinematography and mise en scene to lead the movie rather than a plot.

Later in the film, when Paul and Camille are fighting and arguing in their apartment, we can really see how tumultuous their relationship has become through the cinematography. The shot design places each character on an opposite side of the room separated by a wall, or something else. This shows the strain in their relationship; they are no longer together, they are separate. The same goal is achieved in this scene, when Godard creates a deep contrast between the foreground and the background, also creating a ton of space between the characters, showing how apart they have grown.

 

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2 thoughts on “Week 6 Blog Post

  1. I agree with what you said about how this film is not as much of a narrative as it is showing off cinematography and mise-en-scene skills. Godard decided it was less important as to what was being said, but better to focus on how it was being said. This explains his different uses of tonality and shot contrasts. What the film lacked in plot, it made up for in delivery. This is especially true in the opening scene. Without the different light filters and camera angles, it would have been rather tedious to hear Camille ask over and over if Paul liked the different parts of her body. It could also be said that the way this movie was filmed was more realistic. The couple was just lying in bed for the entirety of the first scene – nothing seemed to be staged about that at all! The natural feel given off by this sets up the relationship between the characters for the rest of the film as they gradually fall out of love.

  2. I have a theory as to why Godard opens the film with a scene that is so perplexing. There’s no easy way to interpret the changing filters and tonality, but here’s why I think he did it. The film, outside of its obvious themes, seems to be an act of rebellion. For the first time, Godard was working with a much larger budget than what he was used to. He was quite hesitant to take on such a project with more demanding producers and a requirement to appeal audiences on a wider scale. He was required to have a more classic three act structure, bigger stars, and yes, even more nudity. The opening scene was not originally planned, and although it does fit nicely into the film and creates better character development, the colors seem as a distraction. I find it interesting that after Godard was forced to add more nude scenes of Bardot, he smacks the scene right after the opening credits. It is as if Godard is sarcastically submitting to the will of his producers. But he takes it to another level by making it the most visibly confusing scene in the film. Why are the colors changing so drastically? It’s almost as if it distracts us from Bardot. We could sit here all day and try to figure out what Godard is getting at, but there’s no clear meaning to the colors. They could represent some motif, but I feel like Godard was simply rebelling. He made her nude scene into something more of a spectacle. He would not just simply give the producers what they asked for. His rebellion is further proven by the way Jack Palance plays his role. Prokosch is by far the most obnoxious and unlikeable character in the film. After the project, Godard refused to do another film like this again. He is a director that does not like to be told what to do. It is needless to say, the producers ultimately hated this film, and Godard hated every moment of making it.

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