One thing you can say about movies from the sixties–they were wildly different from the stuff we see today. And a perfect example of this is Contempt (Le Mepris), a copy of which the folks at Lions Gate sent out for review. And after seeing it, I have deep doubts as to whether this would actually get made today. Not because the content is particular objectionable, but because the content is so spectacularly dull.
Contempt joins us with Camille and Paul, a screenwriter and his wife, who loses affection for her husband while he’s in the midst of doing rewrites on The Odyssey, directed by Fritz Lang (actually played by Fritz Lang, interestingly) and produced by American producer Jonathan Prokosch. So now, we get to watch Camille and Paul’s marriage fall apart while he does rewrites, and witness the juxtaposition of a disastrous marriage and the screenwriter’s place in the movie industry.
Or as I like to think of it, we get to watch Paul do rewrites for the most incomprehensible movie I’ve seen since my last go-round with David Lynch while his marriage falls apart. In other words, ninety minutes of EXCRUCIATING BOREDOM as a couple incessantly bickers in French for no clear reason, followed intermittently by long-winded pronouncements from Prokosch. Oh, and if Prokosch isn’t reading from Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book, I’d be absolutely astonished.
And then there are the strange scenes–for instance, when Paul, Camille, Fritz Lang and Prokosch go to a stage show, the singing will regularly cut out and be replaced by the characters’ dialogue, but sometimes, we’ll get the singing over the dialogue, and I’m at a loss at whether or not this is intentional or some kind of horrible accident.
Contempt is, plain and simple, a disaster. An incredibly boring disaster, not to put too fine a point on it. I’ve seen some really interesting stuff come out of Lions Gate’s Studio Canal affiliation, but this one is such a massive snoozefest that it’s scarcely worth seeing. Unless you find French bickering and large doses of nonsense engaging, you’re probably going to get a lot of rest watching this hour and forty minute sleeping pill.
The Screenhead Ten Scale understands the title of Contempt well, and even shares it for this slow, plodding, pretentious nightmare, handing the contemptible Contempt a three out of ten for its incredible lack of focus and aggressive dullness.