171 Contempt

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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Barmy
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#76 Post by Barmy » Wed Apr 09, 2008 10:42 am

Here's a review that I just found randomly that I largely agree with (other than that it's his best film #-o).

Money quote:
Whenever one reads positive essays or reviews on Godard, all one gets are elaborate explanations for what was attempted, rather than an assessment of whether or not what is on-screen is successful. This is always the first sign of an inferior critic talking about a work of art that is not nearly as good as the critic claims. Excuses abound for Godard’s deliberate dullness, self-indulgence, pedantry, and obscurantism, but none of them ever reconciles what is seen on-screen — only the envisioned unmaterialized.

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bunuelian
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#77 Post by bunuelian » Wed Apr 09, 2008 2:39 pm

I'd argue that Beckett's "Trilogy" at the very least pushed the envelope of what could be considered "entertaining" in a novel, and certainly The Unnameable flirts with being The Unreadable, but nonetheless succeeds in being deliriously fun if you grit your teeth hard enough.

But again, I think the question for Godard, in the case of Contempt, was not whether or not he was creating a form of entertainment (of course he was) but whether he was making a form of entertainment that the Machine wanted him to make.

I fail to see anything that justifies "deliberate dullness, self-indulgence, pedantry, and obscurantism" being ascribed to Contempt. There are elements of deliberate emptiness (the long apartment sequence) that effectively encapsulate the distance between the two characters. The film creates tension by depicting high energy scenes in low energy ways (the car crash being the penultimate example). The film is, like his other narrative works, a dialogue about film itself, and if that sort of thing appeals to you, then Contempt is overflowing with creative ideas.

[Eliminated offensive and unproductive text.]
Last edited by bunuelian on Thu Apr 10, 2008 12:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Antoine Doinel
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#78 Post by Antoine Doinel » Wed Apr 09, 2008 2:55 pm

Barmy isn't trolling the thread. I've been reading the past page with great interest and his counterargument is just a more bluntly stated argument than what HerrSchreck is saying. And he's certainly not stopping anyone from describing their enjoyment of the film.

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#79 Post by domino harvey » Wed Apr 09, 2008 2:59 pm

I may roll my eyes at those criticizing Contempt but I don't want to stop them from being able to post about how much they hate the film. It's our differences that make us special, if we're entitled to like the film they're entitled to hate it. God Bless America, Land That I Love. Stand Beside Her, something something you get the drift

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Mr Sausage
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#80 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Apr 09, 2008 3:28 pm

barmy wrote:Sorry, but the movie just ain't that deep.
To paraphrase some Russian: if a movie is thrown through the air and hits a critic on the head, and there is a hollow sound, is it always the movie's fault?
Herr Shreck wrote:I take exception to your mentioning "his favorite films" as justification for his belief-- as a director-- in "entertainment". He may have loved Hollywood films as a critic, but the films he made as a director, I think you'd agree, aren't of the Hollywood Golden Age pedigree... not by a long shot. Arthur Rimbaud liked cheap poetry and nonsensical little ditties, but this is not what A Season In Hell is. A man's work is not the sum total of his youthful inspiration.
GringoTex wasn't offering Godard's criticism as justification in itself, but in order make the point that Godard always said his films were an extension of his film critcism.

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Barmy
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#81 Post by Barmy » Wed Apr 09, 2008 4:04 pm

That review I found was a goldmine--a critic who thought that Contempt was somewhat good/accessible but still seriously problematic. You'll be glad to know that I have nothing further to add. :x

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HerrSchreck
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#82 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Apr 09, 2008 4:15 pm

I love it. Barmy criticizes a film specifically and he's a troll. A moderator (folks who don't like contempt have empty heads thus the hollow sound), and various posters roll their eyes & bust on Barmy (and his kids?) specifically...

and Barmy's the troll. As I said this thread has a fucking full moon attached to it.

This discussion has hit a wall... or dried itself out.

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tryavna
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#83 Post by tryavna » Wed Apr 09, 2008 4:32 pm

bunuelian wrote:I'd argue that Beckett's "Trilogy" at the very least pushed the envelope of what could be considered "entertaining" in a novel, and certainly The Unnameable flirts with being The Unreadable, but nonetheless succeeds in being deliriously fun if you grit your teeth hard enough.
:lol: I've made that joke myself. I guess I've never "gotten" the Trilogy, but I do find some of Beckett's stuff uproariously funny. Waiting for Godot is hilarious when performed.

In much the same way, Godard strikes me as a director you either "get" or you don't -- there doesn't seem to be much middle ground. And it has always seemed to me totally unpredictable whether a given film buff will "get" him or not. I really need to give his work at least one more go, but the only one of his films that I truly enjoy is Le Petit Soldat (and I have no idea why I like that movie in particular).

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#84 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Apr 09, 2008 6:42 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:I love it. Barmy criticizes a film specifically and he's a troll. A moderator (folks who don't like contempt have empty heads thus the hollow sound), and various posters roll their eyes & bust on Barmy (and his kids?) specifically...

and Barmy's the troll. As I said this thread has a fucking full moon attached to it.

This discussion has hit a wall... or dried itself out.
Right, now I'm getting upset. I'm going to have a break from the forum for a while to let things calm down but I have to respond to Herr Schreck's latest assault. I have never been a full moderator of the forum, I was given a few extra privileges to add some threads to the "Filmmaker" section set up last year and only in that section. In fact I always felt guilty about that meaning my name showed up in green in the 'who's online' section of the forum, especially as I'm afraid I didn't get time to contribute much to that section.

For what it is worth HS, I've messaged cdnchris to ask him to remove those privileges - I don't want this problem to affect your attitude to the forum as a whole.

(I'm glad we didn't talk about Contempt sooner now!)

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#85 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Apr 09, 2008 6:49 pm

DUDE I was talkng about MrSausage, not you!!

Just above--
Mrsausage wrote:
barmy wrote:Sorry, but the movie just ain't that deep.
To paraphrase some Russian: if a movie is thrown through the air and hits a critic on the head, and there is a hollow sound, is it always the movie's fault?
Like I said... a full moon hangs perennially over this thread.

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Mr Sausage
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#86 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Apr 09, 2008 9:00 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:DUDE I was talkng about MrSausage, not you!!

Just above--
Mrsausage wrote:
barmy wrote:Sorry, but the movie just ain't that deep.
To paraphrase some Russian: if a movie is thrown through the air and hits a critic on the head, and there is a hollow sound, is it always the movie's fault?
Like I said... a full moon hangs perennially over this thread.
Barmy's condescending remark is exactly the kind of nonsense that has killed this discussion. If you think I am to blame for this "full moon" of yours, you're delusional. All I came here to do was discuss some interesting points with Colin, and that remained civil and interesting. You came here and then people became upset.

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#87 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Apr 09, 2008 9:35 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:DUDE I was talking about MrSausage, not you!!
I'm very sorry HS, I didn't realise at the time. That was entirely my fault in not reading the last couple of posts properly.

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#88 Post by GringoTex » Wed Apr 09, 2008 11:49 pm

Antoine Doinel wrote:Barmy isn't trolling the thread. I've been reading the past page with great interest and his counterargument is just a more bluntly stated argument than what HerrSchreck is saying.
Perhaps you can enlighten me about exactly what their argument is, because neither one of them has made a single textual point about Contempt or Godard. I feel like I'm back in Film Appreciation 101 where Frat Boy looking for an easy A decides to denounce the first foreign language film he's ever encountered.

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#89 Post by bunuelian » Thu Apr 10, 2008 12:04 am

I apologize for my inflammatory vitriol. I'll just say that I don't find "this film sucks and people who like it are pretentious" useful or interesting to read.

I think I probably read "The Unreadable" line somewhere sometime. I had a terrible incident when I was reading the book. I got onto the elevator at work with several of the high power people in the company, and one of them asked me, "what's that book about?" How do you explain a book about an undefined mass of flesh (?) sitting in a flower pot, maybe, writing about its anxieties and trying desperately to formulate an imaginary world through which to live, all while questioning its own existence, to a group of 60-something executives who read business books for fun at night . . . impossible. I handled it poorly.

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#90 Post by Antoine Doinel » Thu Apr 10, 2008 1:01 am

GringoTex wrote:
Antoine Doinel wrote:Barmy isn't trolling the thread. I've been reading the past page with great interest and his counterargument is just a more bluntly stated argument than what HerrSchreck is saying.
Perhaps you can enlighten me about exactly what their argument is, because neither one of them has made a single textual point about Contempt or Godard. I feel like I'm back in Film Appreciation 101 where Frat Boy looking for an easy A decides to denounce the first foreign language film he's ever encountered.
In short: they felt the film favored a "message" over an interesting or accomplished narrative or mise-en-scene. But they better explained themselves in their own posts and I'm certainly not going to speak for them here.

And for the record, I like Contempt but I thought Herr's and Barmy's reactions to the film were completely valid. Moreover, Barmy offered a link to a review that summarized his thoughts and even offered Tout Va Bien as a similar, but more accomplished work. But instead of a continuing discussion, accusations of trolling [redacted] were unleashed.

If they're the Frat Boys, then I guess everyone else is the Film Nerd who refuses to believe that The Canon of film directors can be critiqued.

I have a feeling Godard would have a good laugh reading this thread.

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#91 Post by HerrSchreck » Thu Apr 10, 2008 2:29 am

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 long time.

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).

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#92 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Apr 10, 2008 2:58 pm

Herrshrek wrote:(Printed even after Colin's apology just above yours. You are a piece of work Senor Canadian Sausage Man.)
My post appears, and was written, before Colin's apology. If it appears on your screen after his, something is wrong one your end. And don't call me a "piece of work" please, you're hardly in the position.
Herrshrek wrote: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 long time.
Far from baiting you, I actually want you to stop posting in this thread and for this discussion to cease for at least a week (same for everyone else).
Herrkshrek wrote: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):
Thanks, but I read that thing a few years ago. Glad he likes it, but I disagree with most of what he says. (maybe I should also point out that I'm indifferent over whether or not you like the film, so you hardly need to explain yourself).

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#93 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Apr 10, 2008 3:05 pm

I'll reiterate this in a separate post just to make things clear: the discussion is over, it's dead, the corpse is being buried. Please don't come here and continue it. Leave it alone for a week. It's already led at least one decent member to take a break from the forum.

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#94 Post by What A Disgrace » Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:31 pm

What does this board think of the Criterion edition's colour scheme, versus the R2 Momentum's?

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#95 Post by david hare » Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:49 pm

I am willing to guess the new edition Momentum R2 and Studio Canal R4 are stronger in the red deparment, and will also not suffer the slight cropping on the LH of the frame which the Criterion displays. Yet to buy it, but as someone who loves the film, I will be soon.

I am just appalled by the very clear damage the tone of this thread has done to a very valuable member, and the apparent indifference to this that has been shown. This forum becomes a very degraded and unsafe space when someone is attacked for attempting to present and SHARE perfectly cogent arguments in support of a work in the face of what has been basically juvenile point scoring.

Lock the fucking thread!

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#96 Post by domino harvey » Thu Apr 10, 2008 9:00 pm

davidhare wrote:Lock the fucking thread!
Well, we might want to discuss Contempt in the future when it gets remade with Leelee Sobieski and Ryan Gosling, so maybe just move all the argumentative posts to the navel gazing forum?

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#97 Post by GringoTex » Thu Apr 10, 2008 9:08 pm

Mr_sausage wrote:It's already led at least one decent member to take a break from the forum.
Who was this?

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#98 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Apr 10, 2008 9:09 pm

domino harvey wrote:
davidhare wrote:Lock the fucking thread!
Well, we might want to discuss Contempt in the future when it gets remade with Leelee Sobieski and Ryan Gosling, so maybe just move all the argumentative posts to the navel gazing forum?
I'm going to lock the thread for a few days to let things calm down. While it's closed, everyone can re-read Davidhare's recent post closely, because he's dead right.

EDIT: a week is up, discussion can resume (and in a more friendly manner, I hope).

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#99 Post by aox » Fri Sep 19, 2008 11:53 am

I don't know if I dreamed this or not, but is Criterion re-issuing this film? I thought I read somewhere that it was a possibility.

I don't recall a real reason for them to reissue it. The edition that is out seemed adequate. Any news?

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#100 Post by kaujot » Fri Sep 19, 2008 11:56 am

aox wrote:I don't know if I dreamed this or not, but is Criterion re-issuing this film? I thought I read somewhere that it was a possibility.

I don't recall a real reason for them to reissue it. The edition that is out seemed adequate. Any news?
It was among those first announced for Blu-Ray.

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