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This review is from: Contempt (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
Criterion does it again. A wonderful, fascinating 1963 film rescued from terrible, faded prints and murky video transfers and made to look - like Criterion's equally outstanding refurbishment of Fellini's "Juliet of the Spirits" - almost like a brand-new movie; as clean and as beautiful as I have ever seen it. Not everyone will "get" what Jean-Luc Godard is up to with "Contempt", and some will get it but still not care for it - fair enough. He never claimed to be making movies for every audience any more than he claimed to be making them for rarefied elites, nevertheless a broad spectrum of us do understand and appreciate his artistic project (of which this is one sublime outcome), and if you can suspend for two hours the narrow, conventional expectations Hollywood product has cultivated in many of us, that number may include you. Robert Stam's alternate-channel audio commentary provides many interesting insights regarding the significance and filmmaking innovations of "Contempt", along with superb analysis of the sources of the story (in Homer and recent Italian literature) and the performances, and some information regarding how the movie came to be cast and produced, which goes a long way toward explaining why Godard made the movie he eventually made. "Contempt" may be Godard's most "conventional" film, but then art is not only about innovation, but also about mastery. If the performances are not always so subtle they are nevertheless wonderfully nuanced, including that of the great director (and non-actor) Fritz Lang, and Brigitte Bardot - still at the apogee of her Gallic voluptuousness - reveals a depth unimagined by those quick to dismiss her bathtub sex kitten persona - not to mention, most of her legendarily beautiful naked body, in Technicolor and CinemaScope. It's as much about how things don't work in a relationship as it is about how they don't work (for the purposes of art) in the movie business, and is as relevant to both subjects today as forty years ago. The second disc supplements include interesting and enjoyable interviews (especially the conversation between Jean-Luc Godard and Fritz Lang), and a short subject about Bardot and the photographers who followed her around relentlessly ("Paparazzi") that's just fun. Disc two also features the perfect antidote to today's movie trailers that go on and on and spoil everything: the one for "Contempt" shows you images from the film but manages to reveal almost nothing about it! This was a home run, Criterion - thank you, thank you, thank you!