Brigitte Bardot Exposes What's Right about Mostly Unexciting `Contempt'

By Arnold, Gary | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 27, 1997 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Brigitte Bardot Exposes What's Right about Mostly Unexciting `Contempt'

Arnold, Gary, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)

Nothing flatters "Contempt," a Jean-Luc Godard relic of 1963 being revived at the Cineplex Odeon Janus, as much as the still-life compositions of one exquisitely evocative and photogenic camera subject: Brigitte Bardot's derriere.

Not exclusively, I hasten to add. Miss Bardot retains a distinctive, provocative appeal when photographed fully clothed or slightly submerged (in balmy waters off Capri) or clutching an oversized bath towel.

Nevertheless, the derriere shots do stand out and gladden the heart, especially if you're old enough to feel nostalgic about Miss Bardot's emergence as a pouty, exotic stimulant in the middle 1950s. If you happened to be a male teen-ager at the time, the impact could be slightly overwhelming.

Miss Bardot is showcased as a naked wonder at the outset of "Contempt." This peekaboo prologue evidently was an afterthought, encouraged or demanded by co-producers Carlo Ponti and Joseph E. Levine. Bless their crass souls. Not that Mr. Godard was obliging enough to contrive an international hit for his patrons, even with Miss Bardot as a raison d'etre. Still, the initial tease remains striking. And one welcomes the encores scattered throughout a very droopy and shallow scenario about marital estrangement and the pitfalls of "selling out" to diabolical modern temptation, symbolized by Jack Palance as a sinister Hollywood movie producer.

Miss Bardot first appears as a reclining nude in a darkened bedroom, her flesh abstracted by red and blue tinting as she playfully asks Michel Piccoli, the actor cast as her weak-willed husband, supposedly a playwright and aspiring screenwriter, to confirm her prettiness. Starting at the ankles and working up.

Very much attuned to pillow talk in the early, pre-militant phase of his career, Mr. Godard failed to sustain "Contempt" as a revealing seriocomic dialogue for vulnerable mates. The illusion of spontaneous intimacy that had worked for him impressively in "Breathless," his breakthrough debut feature of 1960, eluded him while he was pretending to drive a wedge between the Bardot and Piccoli characters.

"Breathless" still thrives on the amoral courtship interplay between Jean-Paul Belmondo as a Parisian thug and Jean Seberg as his girlfriend, an American coed. "Contempt" settles for a lame build-up to estrangement as Mr. Piccoli's Paul Javel disillusions his wife, Camille, abetting her seduction by Mr. Palance's seething and lecherous Jeremiah Prokosch. Encouraged to wear his hat in homage to Dean Martin in "Some Came Running," Mr. Piccoli remains the most trifling of moral cowards.

Ostensibly, Javel is a sucker for quick and easy money, a $10,000 rewrite fee for an improbable work in progress.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Brigitte Bardot Exposes What's Right about Mostly Unexciting `Contempt'


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?