Second Time Around

Contempt
There are but three sequences (and 149 shots) in this literally legendary Jean-Luc Godard film of 1963. In the first we are introduced to Michel Piccoli, a hack screenwriter working on an adaption of Homer's Odyssey for vulgarian producer Jack Palance and wise old director Fritz Lang. This sequence is set in Rome, Godard's "modern world." The last sequence, "the story of castaways of the Western world," is the film shoot on the Isle of Capri, "nature before civilization and its neuroses." It is the film's long middle section, entirely set in Piccoli's apartment, that is its heart; there we see Piccoli lose the affections of his wife, Brigitte Bardot, through bickering, stubbornness, and pride. This is the Godard film for people who normally dislike Godard, which may explain the tidal wave of praise that has greeted its revival in this gorgeous (color, ultra-wide screen) print. The film is lucid and clear in its narrative progression, with psychologically valid and well-rounded characters, as opposed to the director's usual modernist scramble of stick-figure protagonists and exasperating dead-ends. Godard never had better photography (Raoul Coutard's) or a more beautiful score (by Georges Delerue). Contempt is even proto-feminist in its treatment of the Bardot character, whose search for respect is treated sympathetically even while we first see her in an artsy nudity shot with colored gels (Godard's way of spiting his real-life producer's demands for a naked leading lady). "I filmed a spiritual odyssey," wrote Godard at the time. "The eye of the camera watching these characters in search of Homer replaces that of the gods watching over Ulysses and his companions."

-- Gregg Rickman

Contempt screens Friday through Thursday, Aug. 15-28, at 7 and 9:30 p.m. at the Castro, 429 Castro (at Market). There are 1:30 and 4:15 p.m. shows Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday. Tickets are $6.50; call 621-6120. The film also screens at the Lark, 549 Magnolia (at Dougherty) in Larkspur, Friday through Monday, Aug. 15-18, at 4:45, 7, and 9:15 p.m. There's a Saturday and Sunday matinee at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $6; call 924-3311. Finally, Contempt opens a weeklong run at the UC Theater in Berkeley Aug. 22.

 
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