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July 11 2020
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Brigitte Bardot attends the opening of Contempt in Rome with, to her left, actor Michel Piccoli and director Jean-Luc Godard. The author Alberto Moravia stands behind the couch.

Jean-Luc Godard’s classic 1963 film Contempt—his most commercially successful feature—is best known for its leading lady, Brigitte Bardot, the main event in an all-star cast that included Michel Piccoli, Jack Palance, and the legendary director Fritz Lang. It also has the pedigree of its source material: a novel by Alberto Moravia; the sun, sand, and sea of the dazzling Isle of Capri; the modernist Casa Malaparte as its indelible final location; and Godard himself, the foremost exponent of the New Wave, here deconstructing a marriage, a myth, the act of selling out, and cinema itself. As if all that weren’t enough, the lavish production of Contempt served as the springboard for a pair of short black-and-white films, both capturing the Zeitgeist of that glamorous moment.

In 2017, under the supervision of the Cinémathèque Française, these companion films by the lesser known but nimble New Wave director Jacques Rozier were restored. Godard and Rozier had become friendly in the late 1950s. Together they attended the 1959 Cannes Film Festival and a unique colloquium of New Wave directors. Rozier—auteur of the charming “Blue Jeans” and Adieu Philippine—had even been the first person to see Godard’s groundbreaking feature, Breathless. Perhaps sensing the need for a confederate in the face of his hyper-controlling Contempt producers Carlo Ponti (whom he reportedly dubbed “Mussolini”) and Joseph E. Levine (“King Kong”), or simply, as always, remaining open to improvisation, Godard accepted Rozier’s proposal to film a behind-the-scenes record of this costly production.

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