Le Mépris (Contempt) is the cinema version of the novel Il Disprezzo (1954) by Alberto Moravia. This digitally restored film by Jean-Luc Godard starring Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli and Fritz Lang is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and beloved film classics.
Godard follows every painful detail of the disintegration of a tragic love between a screenwriter (Michel Piccoli) and his wife (Brigitte Bardot), who holds him in ever-increasing contempt. As Piccoli is working on rewriting Homer’s Odyssey for filming by Fritz Lang (played by himself) in Cinecittà, Bardot falls for the brutish producer Jack Palance. Implicitly, however, the film is about the traditional clash between commercial America and artistic Europe.
The story takes place in a sultry Southern European setting, against the deep-blue backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea, captured in brilliant Cinemascope images. The gorgeous, majestic soundtrack by Georges Delerue reinforces the film’s atmosphere. On top of all that, there is the rare depth of Brigitte Bardot’s role, after so many superficial roles that focused mainly on her looks. The chance to admire one of the most beautiful women of all time in a serious role must have something to do with the abiding popularity of Le Mépris.