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Contempt (Le Mépris)

Director – Jean-Luc Godard – 1963 – France – Cert. 15 – 103m

*****

Review originally published in What’s On In London when the film was reissued in 1996 – reprinted here to commemorate Godard’s passing on Tuesday, 13th September, 2022

Made back in 1963 in the latter days of the French New Wave, Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt (Le Mépris) anticipates J.G. Ballard’s seminal novel Crash, David Cronenberg’s controversial film of which currently awaits a British distributor. Alongside a director in a film studio (Godard casts the great Fritz Lang, who famously made the silent classic Metropolis at UFA in 1926 before a subsequent career in Hollywood on westerns and crime thrillers), Contempt boasts a central protagonist obsessed by his wife’s sexual peccadilloes, not to mention bleak, domestic, modernist architecture and mythical car crash aftermaths.

The camera lingers lovingly over the latter to George Delerue’s unforgettable and heavily romantic score, but (as apparently in Cronenberg’s Crash) pays little attention to the actual moment of impact.

It’s one of Godard’s best films and possibly his most accessible. Director Lang struggles to film The Odyssey at CineCitta with unsympathetic producer Jeremiah Prokosh (a towering Jack Palance) who waxes lyrical about life and art while seducing Camille (a stunningly contemptuous Brigitte Bardot), wife of hired screenwriter Michel Piccoli.… Read the rest

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Bergman Island

Director – Mia Hansen-Løve – 2021 – France, Belgium, Germany – Cert. 15 – 112m

First half *****

Second half **

A working, filmmaking couple spend time on the island where celebrated director Ingmar Berman lived, now a niche tourist attraction based around his life and movies – out exclusively on MUBI from Friday, July 22nd

Two writer-directors who are also a couple Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth) fly in to spend time and write at the Bergman Estate on Fårö Island in the Baltic Sea, just off the coast of Sweden. This is the site that legendary Swedish film and theatre director Ingmar Bergman left as a legacy to the world, where people could apply for residencies to help in their creative or academic work, watch his films on 35mm and browse his personal audio, video and book library. Chris and Tony thus find themselves alone in Bergman’s private viewing theatre watching Cries And Whispers (Ingmar Bergman, 1972).

Both are involved with screenplays: when he’s over at the Bergman Centre, she sneaks a look in his large notebook entitled ‘F’ which contains extensive notes and erotic drawings veering towards the sadomasochistic. On a later occasion, she stands him up by not joining the Bergman Safari coach tour around the island, complete with a tour guide describing the site where Through A Glass Darkly (Ingmar Bergman, 1961) plays on a screen.… Read the rest

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Blithe Spirit

Director – Edward Hall – 2020 – UK – Cert. PG – 95m

***

Adaptation of Noël Coward’s supernatural comedy in which a remarried man is tormented by the ghost of his late, first wife – on VoD from Friday, January 15th

Noël Coward’s original play has always been something of an audience pleaser with its slightly loopy medium Madame Arcati who materialises the late wife or a remarried man who then finds he’s stuck with the unwelcome ghost and his second wife at the same time. The likeable if lightweight property has been filmed numerous times over the years and you might wonder, does the world really need another version?

Anyway, here it is. Edward Hall has had the good sense to cast Judi Dench as Arcati and she clearly has a lot of fun playing the role, just as the audience will enjoy her playing it. The screenplay takes liberties with Coward’s text, but they’re quite smart liberties. It turns main protagonist Charles Condomine (the appropriately sprightly Dan Stevens) into a screenwriter struggling to write a film for his producer. His late and recently rematerialised first wife Elvira (Leslie Mann) all but wrote the series of novels which made his name as a writer and which still living second wife Ruth (Isla Fisher) believes he himself wrote.… Read the rest