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FILM GODARD Le Mepris [1963] – La méprise en Le Mépris

Still from beginning of Le Mepris – Raoul Coutard, cinematographer. These words are spoken in French and appear on this version in English subtitles.

At the end another dolly shot:

Watch Le Mépris (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963) – Part 11 (Youtube) to see the strange tracking shot with Odysseus shuffling sideways, to keep himself in frame, as the camera travels right to left.

“A simple film without a mystery, an Aristotelian film, stripped of appearance, Le Mepris proves in 149 shots that in the cinema, as in life, there is no secret, nothing to elucidate, merely the need to live – and to make films”

– Jean-Luc Godard in Godard on Godard.

Up to a point, Lord Copper

Godard is quoted unatributed in Le Mépris: Analysis of mise-en-scène by Roberto Donati, Offscreen, 30 November: 2009

‘C’est un film simple sur des choses compliquées’
-Jean-Luc Godard

This article together with The Eye of the Beholder: Marital Discord and Film Making in Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mepris by Jason Mark Scott form essential reading for this film.

From The Film Club of Caen website Mempris page :

Le Mépris s’ouvre sur une phrase d’André Bazin : “le cinéma substitue à nos regards un monde qui s’accorde à nos désirs (cette phrase attribuée par Godard à André Bazin, est en fait, sous une forme légèrement différente “le cinéma est un regard qui se substitue au nôtre pour nous donner un monde accordé à nos désirs” de la plume de Michel Mourlet dans son article Sur un art ignoré publié dans le n° 98 des Cahiers du cinéma)

Contempt opens with a sentence of André Bazin, “The Cinema substitutes by our gaze a world that accords with our desires (this sentence attributed by Godard to André Bazin, is in fact, a slightly different form of, ” film, is a look that is substituted for our own to give us a world in accord with our desires” penned by Michel Mourlet in his article on an overlooked art published in Issue 98 of Cahiers du Cinema)

The Eye of the Beholder: Marital Discord and Film Making in Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mepris

Jason Mark Scott, Offscreen 31 August 2008 :

Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mepris (Contempt, 1963) is routinely cited alongside Francois Truffaut’s La Nuit Américaine (Day For Night, 1973) and Federico Fellini’s 8 ½ (1963) as one of the great European films about film making itself. However, Le Mepris sits uneasily alongside those films. Whereas the Truffaut and Fellini films are almost entirely given over to satirical meditations on the film making process, Godard’s film is first and foremost a portrait of a marriage, with textual reflections on the nature of cinema ultimately existing only so as to suggest the ways in which love, and love of the image, can become detrimentally linked. As Phillip Lopate has observed, Le Mepris “moves us because it is essentially the story of a marriage.” More precisely still, Godard’s film is the story of a film maker’s marriage.

Adding immediately after that when first released the reviews were unfavourable. Stanley Kauffmann

……suggested that the movie was likely to appeal only to “those interested in Brigitte Bardot’s behind.”

The bit that I’m taken with is:

During production, Raoul Coutard, the film’s cinematographer, told interviewers that “I am convinced that Godard is trying to explain something to his wife in Le Mepris. It’s a sort of letter”

If it was, it was a very long letter – though beautifully filmed by Coutard. Why shouldn’t film be about one’s personal journey? But how to make it watchable? I was hoping the scenes in the flat wouldn’t go on, but they did. Or is that the point? Maybe watch that section a few more times but that’ll hard since it’s not an entertainment. Probably just end up picking out all the things more careful watchers noticed about colours.


If a film-maker tends to include his own life and preoccupations in films he makes, then we can’t come to one of his films without pre-knowledge or pre-conceptions. We know the director, that’s why we chose to watch his film. If we end up being disappointed – the Piccolo/ Bardot falling out didn’t work for me – then on to his next effort. As with so many films I watch, the cinematography often rescues a film. True in buckets for Le Mepris.

Little parts of Le Mepris were amusing: the rushes scenes with Jack Palance as producer accusing the director, played by a real-life director, Fritz Lang (who the New wave auteurs admired), of not filming the agreed script, and ending up kicking can’s of film about in front of the viewing screen, finally picking up one and throwing it like a discus; producer Jack reading what he thought were apposite quotes from a minute book in his pocket. We may at first think these ready quotations are appropriate too, but with all the translating into three or four languages going on, who has the time to work it out; and Fritz Lang uttering words of wisdom: are these ideas and quotes the sort of thing Fritz Lang’s says anyway or something Godard wants him to say and doesn’t believe at all.


The same questions about films like Godard’s arise as they did about art, music, literature. Do we need to come forearmed with basic cultural knowledge in order to get anything out of them? If you come to Le Mepris knowing nothing of The Odyssey, then you are at a disadvantage. How is it possible to draw parallels between relationships in the film and in Homer without? In ignorance, this all passes you by till you read more about the film after watching it. Nothing wrong with that. But the one’s really getting something out Godard’s films as they are watched are the cognoscenti. The rest of us are in a way playing with fame – it’s a Godard, this is recommendation enough. Either read about it before hand and be forearmed, or afterwards and have it explained.


It struck me how a film-maker like Godard creates an archipelago of films, his life the water surrounding and dividing them, lapping on their shores. He can playfully refer to his own films or his own existence along this string of islands, his life always just off frame in any film he makes. Although the film is a recording of something he wants to put together, he sees the life and the work as contiguous and interchangeable. He clearly wants to make films, but when he’s living he’s preparing or making films as much as living his life. it’s a very intense process. He’s obsessed by film and works at it all the time. And at the end of the thought we see – fun if we could all do this! – that he can in any case make up for life’s deficiencies with film. But this is a power trip as well, because life will conform to your desires through film. You make actors do on film (or indeed on the theatre) what you want life to do but often does.

To move away from this film into the details of the lives of Godard and Karina, then threading the knowledge back into it and other films he has made, is not not a trivial pursuit.

Reading the Anna Karina entry in New Wave Film does help, though many film critics would argue for the material to stand for itself and not be propped up by the doings of the people who created it, but you can’t with Godard as you can’t with other New wave directors like Truffaut.

This 2 page piece, at the time of the publicity for the showing of the digitally re-mastered Pierrot le Fou, explains both sides more concisely.

Sexual Politics: Godard and Me

David Ehrenstein, LA Weekly, 15 April 2010

There is mention of a 1969 film on the relationship by Rivette, starring Bulle Ogier Jean-Pierre Kalfon, called L’Amour Fou.


L’Amour Fou (Jacques Rivette)

A 4:40 section of L’Amour Fou in Jacques Rivette: le Veilleur directed by Claire Denis & Serge Daney for “Cinéma, de notre temps” according to commenter carsecor.

Footnote 1 in Autodialogue by John Hughes

Footnote 1 is the text of the footnote Rosenbaum includes in his Rivette: Texts and Interviews.

“It seems possiblie that the following incident involving Godard and Anna Karina, described by Paul Gegauff, inspired the climatic scenes of destruction in L’amour fou:

‘Finally the door opened. What a scene! Jean-Luc, stark naked, in an icy, totally wrecked room. He had sent the piano flying in splinters, cut the strings, sawn the legs off the furniture, ripped the paintings, torn up the prints, slashed the hangings and curtains, shattered the telephone, broken the windows, drenched the carpet in India ink, smashed the vases, deciptated the busts, and all this methodically, in the spirit of Bonaparte rather than Attila, and much less concerned with revenge than with justice. All his clothes and Anna’s were lying on the ground in tatters, the sleeves slashed with a razor, in a mess of wine and broken glass. Jean-Luc’s first words appeared to be a justification: “Anyway, it’s a furnished flat.”

‘It was then, growing accustomed to the semi-darkness, that I noticed Anna on a sort of dais in the far corner of the room, also quite naked. With a top hat on her head, the sole survivor of the massacre, and her arms slowly waving, she was dancing a kind of lascivious jig. For a couple of hours Jean-Luc sat there in a prostrated silence right out of a Russian novel, in spite of himself admiring his wife’s shapely lines. “I’d offer you a glass of something,” he said, “only there aren’t any glasses left.” Then: “Go and buy us a couple of raincoats so that we can go out.”‘ (‘Salut les Coquins!’, Lui No. 84, Jan. 1971, p. 106.)”

(Rivette: Texts & Interviews, p. 94-5) (Ed.)

wiki:Paul Gégauff

February 15, 2012 - Posted by | Godard, Le Mepris [1963] |

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