by Kris Tronerud
- Contempt (Le Mépris) • Jean Luc Godard • 1963 • Original Trailer
“The cinema is an invention without a future.”
— Louis Lumière, inventor of motion pictures; written on the wall of the screening room in Contempt
Jean Luc Godard is the original, and still reigning, tortured intellectual of the cinema. Deeply in love with the Classic Hollywood films of the 30s, 40s and 50s, yet disdainful and deeply … contemptuous… of the philistine restrictions and lack of freedom of commercial film-making as only a French intellectual could be, Godard rarely became comfortable with his material in the manner of his Hollywood idols, and many of his best films are more easily enjoyed not as ‘movie movies’ but rather as joyful, sensual and hyperkinetic exercises in the sheer joy of film-making itself. In the way painters who love painting relish the texture of pigment and brushstroke, we can almost see Godard fondling the film as he edits it himself (as he often has), using his Arriflex to make love to his actors, the scenery, the physical texture of the world, and the process itself as an end. Beneath the cool renegade posture, and all the self conscious artistry for its own sake, however, lay the heart of an unabashed romantic, and, though it may seem ‘uncool’ to say so, the films in which Godard gave free (or freer) reign to his love of emotional storytelling, and a more (relatively) conventional structure, became his finest films; including Breathless, Bande Apart (The Outsiders), Passion and, arguably his best, the ravishing, and newly restored Contempt.