Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Film Pretty Contemptuous

Cleveland Press February 26, 1965

French director Jean Luc Godard ("My Life to Live," "Breathless,") has the reputation of being a master at improvisation. His latest film, "Contempt," is less a matter of improvisation than it is aimless wandering.

A film writer (Michel Piccoli) in Rome hires him self out to an American producer (Jack Palance). The writer's wife (Brigitte Bardot) resents the producer's attentions and her husband's seeming indifference to them, even to the point of believing that he is pushing her into an affair with the executive.

The result is a complete, silent contempt for her husband.

THE MOVIE they are working on -- the film within the film -- is a version of "The Odyssey." Everybody engages in some lengthy and muddled psychoanalysis of Ulysses and his relations with Penelope and a heavy handed parallel is made with the situation existing between the writer and his wife.

The great German film director, Fritz Lang, is cast as himself. The movie is filled with "in' jokes and remarks about the film industry.

Piccoli wears a hat throughout the film, even when wrapped in bath towel -- a touch from Fellini's "8' 1/2"?

"I'm imitating Dean Martin in 'Some Came Running'," he explains.

Miss Bardot looks sullen throughout. And as with most Bardot films, there are generous views of the bare Bardot backside. Struggling for a fresh approach, director Godard has tried red filters and blue filters, cameras that move and revolve. Nothing helps.

BACKGROUND music takes on a Brahms-like quality whenever BB appears on screen. Which only adds to the silly pretentiousness of the whole affair.

Jack Palance offers an imitation of Jack Palance imitating a movie mogul.

Palance speaks English while the others speak French, and sometimes German and Italian. I suspect there would have been a lack of communication anyway.

"I like gods," Palance thunders. "I know exactly how they feel."

Sick is the way audiences are likely to feel.