Jean Luc Godard, Le Mepris
Inkjet on watercolour paper
90 x 60 centimetres
I’ve long been a fan of the 1960’s French New Wave film director Jean Luc Godard and I have recently had the pleasure of revisiting some of his early work, specifically Pierrot Le Fou (Crazy Pete) and Le Mepris (Contempt). Godard can be viewed as a pioneer of cinematic of pop art, he has a fondness of stuffing his films with ironic references to advertising, comic books, genre fiction and occasionally design and architecture. Moreover, his better funded films are wrapped in a beautiful visual aesthetic courtesy of his favoured cameraman, Raoul Coutard, and it’s this aesthetic that I chose to focus on in this reimagining of his 1963 film, Le Mepris. The final act of the film plays out in the extraordinary 1930’s Rationalist house, Casa Malaparte, built on a vertiginous headland on the isle of Capri. The actors Brigitte Bardot and Michel Piccoli play a couple whose relationship is falling apart and she decides on a dip in the sea while her husband declines this physical pleasure, preferring, literally with his back turned to sensuality, to worried reading instead.
They inhabit a softly lit afternoon landscape of artificial looking rock surfaces and a crisply detailed antiquarian statue, it’s a Mediterranean landscape that Giorgio De Chirico or Salvador Dali may have imagined. Casa Malaparte has been substituted by a bronzed steel, grid-like corporate style structure glazed in a smoked glass; it is devoid of contents, possibly symbolising the intellectual hollowness of the film industry that Godard criticised in his film. The 99 steps from Casa Malaparte have been retained and the cascading semicircle is used as a compositional device trailing the eye from corporate temple in the background to figures steeped in their private lives in the foreground.Roger Ebert, Contempt