Friday, June 15, 2018

Love on the Rocks

This is my entry for the Sex! Blogathon hosted by Movie Movie Blog Blog

Bridget Bardot was the sex goddess of her day.  Admittedly she didn't have the acting chops of, say, a Bette Davis or a Katherine Hepburn, but she was hotter than a 3 dollar bill on screen.  Contempt (or it's French title Le Mephis, which actually translates as "doubt") was a film by Jean-Luc Godard.  It was based on a novel by Italian author Alberto Moravia (who also gave us the inspiration for two other classic movies, Two Women and The Conformist). It is the story of a deterioration of a marriage, and yet, somehow, is one of the sexiest movies every made.  (And not just because Bardot has a couple of scenes in the all-together...)

Contempt (1963): 

The film opens with a scene with Camille (Bardot) and her her husband, Paul Laval (Michel Piccoli), lyting in bed.  Camille, beginning with her feet, enumerates her various body parts and asks Paul if he loves them.  Paul eventually confesses that he loves every part of her, individually and as a whole.

Paul has recently acquired the job of doing rewrites on  a movie set.  The movie is being directed by Fritz Lang (playing himself), but the producer, Jeremy Prokosch (Jack Palance), doesn't like the direction the movie is going.  (Given that the movie is an adaptation of Homer's The Odyssey, one would think sticking to the original story would be logical, but this is the French version of Hollywood, so...)

 Prokosch is an arrogant bastard, a man who thinks his way is right and will do anything to get his way.  He belittles Lang because Lang's version of the movie is not what he wants.  (For one thing, he wants more naked bodies in it.) 

The key scene is when Prokosch invites Camille to ride to his villa with Paul left to catch a taxi.  Paul does not demand that his wife ride with him; instead he lets Prokosch take her in his two seater sports car.  Paul arrives late, claiming there had been an accident on the road.  Of course, Camille doesn't believe him. Apparently Camille comes to the conclusion that Paul is essentially trying to prostitute her to Prokosch in order to advance his career.  (Note: in the novel, the accident really does happen, but apparently Godard wanted to have his audience unsure of what really happened on the road.)

The middle of the movie is the breakdown of the relationship between Paul and Camille.  Paul turns out to be a whiny insecure twit, one who constantly badgers Camille to explain her reactions; i.e. why she seems to have fallen out of love with him.  His ego refuses to let him be a sensitive sort and just take her in his arms and tell her his love has never failed for her.  Which is probably what she really wants.  Thus her attitude with him changes from love to outright disgust.

This is not a romantic movie, it's not even really a sexy movie, to put it rightly.  So why do I think it's sexy?  Because I tend to put myself in Paul's shoes and can see that what I would do would be different.  In the movie that I would make with Bardot, we would reconcile our differences tout suite, and instead of Camille leaving Paul in the dust, we would leave the studio and Prokosch and Lang behind, and find another way to get the money.

But then I am a romantic at heart.   So I think I have the solution to every marital difficulty I see on the screen.  Not that Camille is not without her own faults.  If Paul is to be believed, Camille may be a bit on the greedy side.  He thinks she wants to live in luxury, which is why Paul took the scriptwriting job in the first place.

Drive home safely, folks.




  1. I'm not a big Godard fan, but I'll look for this one after reading your in-depth review of it. Thank you for contributing this to the blogathon!

    1. I find Godard and the rest of the French New Wave directors to be a bit of a bore, so I was surprised that I kind of liked this. Thanks for reading.

  2. Hi Quiggy, I have never seen this one, but your description of the iconic scene in which the man sings the praises of all Bardot's physical attributes is spoofed in the film Valley of the Dolls, where Sharon Tate becomes a star of foreign skin-flicks...Sharon and her lover are in bed, and he is enumerating all her body parts in French as the subtitles read: "Your arms...your legs..." etc.

    1. Valley of the Dolls is still on my to watch list. I have seen Beyond the Valley of the Dolls however. Thanks for reading.

  3. Despite being a Godard fan (and a Bardot fan) I have yet to see Contempt. I will definitely have to check it out!


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