4K Digital Restoration
Splendid, prophetic, visually ravishing. . . . This pop-art masterpiece is still light years ahead of its time.J. Hoberman
Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli, Jack Palance, Fritz Lang,
In Italy, Fritz Lang is shooting The Odyssey for an American producer (Jack Palance). He mourns classical culture but will settle for swords and sandals; like The Odyssey, Contempt is about man against circumstances, and such is the circumstance of cinema. The screenwriter, Paul (Michel Piccoli), meanwhile, becomes lost in Rome, and during his odyssey, his wife, Camille (Brigitte Bardot), enters into a crisis of contempt. Contempt becomes very much Camille/Penelope’s story as, on Paul’s return, this marriage is dissected while Paul and Camille (and the viewer) are trapped for thirty minutes within the walls of their apartment. With its colors and compositions, its Italian ruins, its vistas, and especially its movement, Contempt is epic, but it is an epic stripped bare by its director, leaving dialogue as flat as Jack Palance’s face, a circumstance as void as Paul and Camille’s marriage, and the filming of a film within a film, which is unstoppable.