Mr_sausage wrote: You came here and then people became upset.
(Printed even after Colin's apology just above yours. You are a piece of work Senor Canadian Sausage Man.)
Man o maaaan Sausage.. I know you're trying to bait me, but you just pulled out of your usual steamer what happens to be the
most piss-in-your-pants funny line I've read in a reaaalllllly
I'll give a snippet of a well thought out appreciation of Contempt, by someone who thinks it's an accomplished film, but strangely so, and with some serious reservations: Jonathan Rosenbaum, from the Reader
(I'll supply the boldface):
Even so, it was years before Contempt started to make much sense to me. And though today I wouldn't hesitate to call it a masterpiece, and certainly one of the great films of the 60s--if not "the greatest work of art produced in postwar Europe," as critic Colin MacCabe labeled it in Sight and Sound last year--I still feel more comfortable with my earlier ambivalence about it than I do with its current acclamation as a timeless, unproblematic classic. Indeed, I would argue that Godard's eclecticism must be acknowledged and understood before one can genuinely appreciate the film.
Much as William Faulkner once credited his success as a novelist to his failure as a lyric poet and Dizzy Gillespie explained his early trumpet style as an abortive attempt to imitate Roy Eldridge, what Godard can't do is fundamental to what he winds up doing. If Contempt invents a new way of thinking about the world--combining the whole complicated business of shooting a movie with reflections on antiquity and modernity, love and filmmaking, sound and image, art and commerce, thoughts and emotions, and four different languages and cultures--it arrives at this vision mainly through a series of detours and roadblocks. Indeed, it might be argued that Godard fails as a storyteller, as an entertainer, as an essayist, and as a film critic in the very process of succeeding as an artist.
How does he fail as a film critic? Contempt begins and ends by showing the execution of a particular tracking shot. The first of these accompanies Francesca down a patch of the Cinecitta back lot while a male voice, after reciting the film's major credits, intones the following: "'The cinema,' Andre Bazin said, 'substitutes for our gaze a world that corresponds to our desires.' Contempt is the story of this world." Godard is clearly fond of this quotation, because he cites it again in both Histoire(s) du cinema and his latest feature, For Ever Mozart. But as far as I've been able to determine, neither the quotation nor the attribution is correct. A likelier source is a much wordier passage by the controversial Cahiers du cinema critic Michel Mourlet. One of the most passionate defenders of Lang's Indian films, he wrote in 1959, several months after Bazin's death: "Since cinema is a gaze which is substituted for our own in order to give us a world that corresponds to our desires, it settles on faces, on radiant or bruised but always beautiful bodies, on this glory or this devastation which testifies to the same primordial nobility, on this chosen race that we recognize as our own, the ultimate projection of life towards God."
How does Godard fail as a storyteller and entertainer? The plot of Contempt proceeds by fits and starts over an afternoon in Rome and a morning in Capri, interrupted by constant digressions and labyrinthine ruminations. Palance as Prokosch is a screaming caricature of an oracular producer, Bardot the unlikeliest "former typist"imaginable. We're supposed to revere Lang as a great artist, but the rushes of the film he's purportedly making look simply awful. At one point Piccoli packs a gun, but he never winds up doing anything with it. When two of the characters die at the end in a car crash, Godard can't even bring himself to show us the accident; we only hear it offscreen, then see an awkwardly posed shot of the wrecked car and passengers that resembles a freakish piece of modernist sculpture. Sometimes Godard eliminates the sound track entirely (except for the repeated motifs of Georges Delerue's score, which Scorsese recently used in Casino); in one sequence, at a noisy audition in a movie theater, he periodically turns off the ambient sound in order to let us hear the dialogue. In countless other ways Godard calls attention to his technique, thereby preventing us from simply following the story as story: he moves the camera back and forth between the quarreling Paul and Camille, periodically cuts to seemingly unmotivated flashbacks, fantasies, and even a flash-forward (most of which account for the three minutes deleted in the original American release), and even adds a blue or red filter in the middle of takes.
How does Godard fail as an essayist? By refusing to pursue a single linear argument or even theme, even when he isn't telling a story, spattering his dialogue with Wise Sayings and assorted quotes fromDante, Holderlin, Brecht, and even Lang, inserting gratuitous film references anywhere and everywhere. (We find out what's playing at the theaters in Rome: Rio Bravo and Bigger Than Life. We see posters for Hatari!, Psycho, Vanina Vanini, and Vivre sa vie. We also know what's playing at the theater where the auditions are being held: Viaggio in Italia.)
And how does Godard succeed as an artist? By turning the above mess into a discourse with its own kind of necessity, wasting nothing. Bazin might not have been the source of the film's opening quote, but as the Socratic inquisitor into what cinema was, he should have been. The broken rhythms of the storytelling in Contempt and the frequent slippages between stars and characters, characters and caricatures, films and ideas about films, incidents and ideas about incidents all point to innovative ways of thinking, as Godard enters the material from different angles to tease out its hidden meanings. And if these meanings take the form of a cubist mosaic rather than a linear narrative or argument, that's because stories and essays take us only part of the way in perceiving the modern world and its contradictions.
Although Rosenbaum has come to a greater appreciation for this film than I did, it took him over 30 years just to get to this point. I would say that this
Indeed, I would argue that Godard's eclecticism must be acknowledged and understood before one can genuinely appreciate the film.
is too great a hurdle for me to have to leap for me to want to appreciate this or any film. My simple acknowledgement of Godards eclecticism-- not to mention the process (took years for Rosenbaum) of "understanding" it-- just can't be a pre-requisite for liking this or any film. It's putting the cart before the horse. For me to get even slightly "obsessy" over a directors private mind and world outside of the films surfaces, I've got to have a good film first and foremost. I think without being a projectionist, film critic, or having blind bought a copy of Contempt (to have those repeated re-viewings to keep re-igniting my interest whereas chances to converse with the film are advanced and give it the breaks it really needs so that its weaknesses are forgivem), it would be hard for me to "do" this film. I've got to have more of a reason to do so beyond a dull narrative surface, and what to me reads as few subversive (and klunkily handled) message about sex obsessed producers, how making films is tough, etc (and breakups suck).