Jean Luc Godard’s Contempt is while a very unique and fascinating film, I found it to be rather drawn out and relatively unexciting. In all honesty, I may have missed out on 10 minutes due to me literally falling asleep at one point.Those ten mintues were probably relatively unexciting and another reminder of how the relationship between Camille and Paul was oh so tragically, yet slowly… very slowly… crumbling at the seams. While I find the plot very bland and unattractive, the visuals really stood out to me. The cinematogrophy was just astounding and added a great depth and feeling to the scenes.
For instance, the scene where the couple is in their apartment and arguing. Here, Camille is seen in a black wig that almost makes her look completely different then initially. I believe that this change in appearance was a small representation in how their relationship was tearing at the seams, how Paul says it really doesn’t fit her. In fact, her new image really clashes with the first scene in the film where they were in bed and speaking of the things Paul likes of Camille.
But further in the apartment scene, Paul and Camille openly argue with one another, continuously moving between rooms and corridors to the point where a wall separates the two. Here, Camille is in a much more crisp and brighter room decorated with furniture whereas Paul is in a very plain, white, and dull hallway. This just perfectly represents the relationship between the two, that they have drifted so far apart that a wall has formed between their hearts. The contrast in each other accentuated that feel immensely, and overall it was a wonderful use of cinematogrophy.
I would also like to note the bright red color of the furniture that Camille’s room had. It is almost similar in color to the producer’s bright red car, ostentatios and showy just like its owner. From my years in literature and troupes in general, red has always been seen as a color close to death, thus the car crash involving the two could have been foreshadowed from almost the very beginning.
Whereas the movie was dull in my opinion, the visuals throughout the movie really stood out and made it for me.
After sitting through the two hour romantic crash and burn that is Contempt, I was left in awe. The movie was a condensed version of falling out of love. Ninety percent of the movie was a continuous shot of Paul and Camille just talking, not even arguing. Jean-Luc Godard was able to capture the sequence of falling out of love and compact these events into a film that was set over a span of maybe two days.
The scene that stands out the most in my mind is when Camille and Paul are in the apartment and there is obviously an argument brewing. Camille presents to Paul her new look, metaphorically a look that is not the same girl that Paul fell in love with, almost to represent that she had changed. Paul bluntly replies with something along the lines of I like you better blonde and an argument ensues. In this scene especially, I notice how subtitles almost distract from the tone of voice that the characters are speaking in. When I read the subtitles I just hear a voice inside my head reading them calmly, not Camille or Paul’s voice screaming them. Even though there was not much dramatic screaming throughout the film, I had a lot harder of a time judging the characters tones and emotions while having to read the subtitles.
All in all, this movie is written without a firm or concrete plot and is shot very simply with not many effects or brilliant cinematography. The majority of the time it is just Camille and Paul being followed around their apartment, the street, or a cliff and every time they argue and become one more step towards their inevitable separation.
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.
As Paul in the film says, Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt is a story about “total, tender and tragic love”. Through the use of mise-en-scene and cinematography, Godard directs a beautiful masterpiece of the French new wave era.
A scene that really caught my eye was when Paul and Camille spent time at their apartment. The whole scene took mise-en-scene to another level. In terms of the setting, the apartment is incomplete in that there are mirrors that need to be put up on the walls and doors that seem to have no glass to the extent that people can walk right through them. This can be seen to symbolize that the couple’s “total love” is actually incomplete. A color that stands out through out the scene is red. As the climax of the film shows, the color could have foreshadowed the deadly car crash in Jerry’s red sports car. The scene’s movement and acting are very casual as well; they need to be because of the scene’s natural mood (they’re just a couple in their apartment).
Throughout the aforementioned scene, in terms of cinematography, Godard does a brilliant job with focal length, depth of field, and motion. Using the walls and their frames, the director adds tremendous depth and length to many of the shots. My favorite shot was when Camille is on the phone with her mother. The audience sees Camille from the viewpoint of another room, which exemplifies masterful framing as Godard uses the walls and the frames of two different rooms to add depth to the shot. The motion of the camera throughout the scene is also very natural as it goes back and fourth between Paul and Camille as they seem to never be in the same place. In a way, it helps show the distance between them.
Another observation I made of the film was the use of its dramatic music in the most normal and ordinary of times. The constant pause and starting of the same music added more tension and awkwardness to the film as it conveyed a sense that Paul and Camille’s love was slowly dying.
Essentially, each aspect of mise-en-scene and cinematography plays with and against each other to deliver an amazing film. Contempt is truly an artistic film experience.
Contempt is an outstanding film at face value, but an even more remarkable piece when broken down. This film should be applauded its use of cinematography and mise-en-scene. It really puts to use everything the film industry has to offer in one movie. Not only does it encompass a vast array of techniques, it does so very well. For this reason, it undoubtedly is a work of art.
In almost every scene there is something that may be used to discuss cinematography because each scene plays with the audiences eye in a new way. The very first scene for instance, with Camille and Paul lying in bed, conveys more than one can even understand. The framing of this scene is magnificent as it only captures the room partially, leaving only the couple in bed in our viewing range. The closeness of the characters bodies, along with the camera lead us to believe that they posses a strong bond. The use of a middle focal length adds a more traditional perspective to the scene. I felt it made it seem very realistic, apposed to superficial or distorted. The deep focus provided the picture with lots of clarity as we could see definition even within the bed sheets. The camera focused on Camille’s body and the different parts individually as she questioned Paul if he loved each and every part of her. Having the couple in the frame, followed by certain assets of Camille, and finally returning to the couple together was attention-grabbing. I also found it interesting that the first color used was red because red occurs on several occasions throughout the entire film. Red has varied meanings because it can suggest anything from love to death. However when thinking about it like that, the color red could not suit the movie any better. Because Camille was facing Paul and not the camera we are unable to see her face, and because her shadow is covering Paul’s face we are not capable of fully seeing any of his expressions either. This really plays on the idea that their relationship is in a sort of blur and there is no real emotional connection to be had between the two.
I know that was a lot regarding one scene but truthfully it encompasses so much and everything is note worthy.
In Contempt, Godard’s unique use of cinematography toys with and maybe even pokes fun at the action of filmmaking and many of its aspects.
This is most evident in the first scene when Camille questions Paul as to whether he loves every bit of her. Godard’s experimenting with the scene’s tonality—twice changing the tone of color of the scene, from red, to light, to dark—can surely be seen as a metaphor of the couple’s tumultuous relationship and its inevitable course. But what may not seem evident at first is the idea that Godard is playing with his cinematographical choices here, seeing what effect painting the scene red, light or dark can have on the viewer, while also possibly poking fun and/or paying homage to these same stylistic choices made by other filmmakers. He is blatantly establishing that what we are watching is filmmaking, which highlights how any choice of his can have a unique effect on us.
Other unique uses of cinematography employed in Contempt that play with formal expectations can be seen in the scenario when Paul and Camille converse and argue in their apartment. Effective use of perspective and wide-angle focal length place Paul and Camille in different places in each shot, each character switching back and forth from dominance to submissiveness as it pertains to their ongoing dialogue. When Paul is in a shaky emotional state at one point in their conversation, his legs (while he is sitting on the toilet) seem many yards away, when in reality he is only a few feet away. This is a shrewd way of displaying his emotional dejection.
Godard’s style in Contempt is interesting in that one feels that almost every filmmaking choice he made was intentional—when watching such a unique piece, one feels that each decision demands (and has) an explanation.
Contempt was unlike any movie I’ve ever seen. This film is filled with different aspects of cinematography and many editing techniques. It is a unfortunate tale of a couple’s tumultuous relationship and the acting deeply reflects their “contempt” for each other. One of the aspects of the film that really stood out to me was the use of the colors red and blue. Prokosch’s car, the sofa in Paul and Camille’s apartment and Camille’s towel were red. The sofa in Prokosch’s villa was blue and the eyes of the Greek statues and even the character’s clothing was red or blue.The color red symbolized the passion of love and ultimately in the end, death. Blue symbolized the fading of love, growing colder and deeper into the blue waters like the ocean in the ending scenes. The blue couch in Prokosch’s villa is a perfect example of this, because there we witness Camille’s infidelity. I also thought it was ironic that Prokosch was wearing a bright red sweater at the end of the film when he dies, and red blood rushes down his face. Red is the color of blood, so it symbolizes their death.
Another thing that was brought to my attention was the lighting in the film. The bedroom scene in the beginning of the movie played with light tremendously. At first the room is dark with very high contrast so we can see the character’s shadows. Then the room turns bright, then dark again. I also noticed that in the scene in which Camille and Paul are having a serious talk in the apartment and sitting across from each other, there is a flickering lamp in between their faces. The scene switches back and forth between close up shots on Paul and Camille’s face. Each time the shots were switched, the lamp in the middle of the table would turn on and then off. This is symbolic of their love flickering and burning out.
Contempt was so different, which actually makes it not any different from all the films we have been watching, but specifically I noticed a few elements in the film that had to do with the framing of scenes, the theme and foreshadow, and the way the scenes set up the perspective.
The framing was prevalent in the house and there was definitely a lot of parts that just signaled to the failing relationship between the two. Whenever they were in the shot together, the depth of the multiple doors and walls gave the idea that the two were always separated whether it be physically or mentally.
There was a lot of foreshadowing of some tragedy happening, I noticed. The first signal was the line where Paul told Camille that he loved her tragically. Then there was their interpretation of the Odyssey and how Ulysses killed Penelope’s suitors. During the scene where she leaves for the movies, he pulls out a gun. When he catches Camille kissing Jeremy, he walks down the steps where the wall was completely red, and there was an appearance of the gun once again. It becomes blatantly obvious that something is going to go wrong.
Finally: perceptions. The way the props are used and the way they are filmed and framed seems to mean more than the dialogue sometimes. The film enjoys using scenes where one person is clearly in the shot talking to someone that is not seen. This creates the rift mentioned before of the broken relationship. The characters are not seeing each other face to face, they are simply speaking empty words to each other. The whole of this film conveys the one theme of detachment between the two characters.
I thoroughly enjoyed the film. The weird usage of color and editing did throw me for a loop but overall after discussion, I understood the purpose of the film. Thank you for listening to my attempt on analyzing the film!
So, yeah, Contempt. French New Wave films. I can see this being a polarising film; personally, I wasn’t a fan. I simply disliked the progression of the plot, which seemed thin. But that’s neither here nor there, and I won’t talk of it here. Except to say that Camille was just terrible.
The cinematography in the film is hard to critique. It was rich with complex techniques and interesting angles and lenses. We discussed different focuses in the scenes, such as the introduction of Jeremy Prokosch, or that really weird theatre scene. That theatre scene bothered me.
Space and time were frequently distorted in Contempt, as I’m sure we all noticed. I found the ability of the cinematographer to warp space so was impressive. Every scene in the apartment was focused to exaggerate the distance (figuratively and literally) between Camille and Paul. I particularly enjoyed the strategic use of props and set to always position something between the two, be it a wall, or, most notably, a lamp. The lamp scene not only put a prop in between the two, but also panned the cameras, creating more of a feeling of separation than normal. (An impressive achievement).
One last note, the tale of the Odyssey that Paul would constantly discuss mirrored the events of his own life. He was the titular Odysseus, Camille was Penelope, and after several cuts from Jeremy to the statue of Neptune, we could easily say that Jeremy is Neptune. Paul even proposes a theory that Penelope simply ceased to love him, which sounds familiar, having seen the movie.
Jean-Luc Godard, as a trademark in all his films, uses the camera not as a lens through which we view the story, but as an effect that is a part of the story. Contempt, which is one of his earlier and highest budgeted films, shows that camerawork can create a vast array of dramatic effects.
One of the most visibly stunning achievements featured in the film is Godard’s rambling argument scene at the couple’s apartment, which runs for over 30 minutes. There is a tension in their dialogue that is highly dramatized by the way the camera works. The camera moves with a certain frustration. It cannot sit still because the characters are high strung. They are constantly running to and from one another through different rooms, both with some new point to make. The traditional and obvious way to film this sequence is to take many close-ups and framings that highlight every ounce of dialogue and action and to edit it sequentially. But instead, Godard strategically plants the camera in odd places that give us glimpses. Oftentimes, the camera has to move and reframe itself as it tries to keep them in a shot together. But those shots are never maintained, thus creating this frustrating effect. The camera cannot keep up with them, portraying their separation. They seem estranged not necessarily through their fluctuating and uncertain dialogue, but through our inability to see them together. Walls, doors, and columns are always dividing them in our view.
At the climax of this sequence, they finally sit down in front of each other. But the camera refuses to let us see it in a natural way. As Paul asks Camille if she loves him, she answers with uncertainty in her voice and the exchange continues to repeat itself in a circular rhythm. Throughout the scene, the camera bounces back and forth between close-ups as they respond to each other. The constant panning is as if the camera is the ball in a game of “Pong.” Even when they sit down and talk, there is this separation. Shots of them together are never maintained for an extended amount of time, as they were captured in the opening scene.
This back and forth experimental shot is featured again in the theater scene to further depict their disunity. It is through this function of the camerawork, that the film finds its harmony. Every shot is a primary part of what is happening and how the story is developing.