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I Found It At the Movies: 1963–Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard)

I Found It At the Movies: 1963–Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard)

Blog - I Found It At The Movies

(Image courtesy Embassy Pictures)
Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.

1963: Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard)

I’ve long considered screenwriter Paul Schrader the most articulate chronicler of the New Hollywood, that unusually great period for American cinema that lasted approximately from 1967 to 1980. In much the same way, I’ve always felt that Jean Douchet, more than anyone else, excelled when it came to looking at the French New Wave. In his fantastic book, appropriately entitled French New Wave, Douchet makes the following statement:

“This young generation felt that beauty was refracted through goodness and truth, lucidity and struggle, in short, by a spirit of resistance, and that ugliness often prolonged a collaborationist mentality…”

This statement rings especially true for me, because what I love most about some of my favorite French New Wave films, aside from their infectious playfulness, is their startling beauty. Take Contempt, for instance, which:

1.  Has one of the five most beautiful scores in the history of film.
2.  Stars one of the five most beautiful women in the history of film.
3.  Is one of the five most beautiful color films ever made.
4.  Contains some of the most beautiful footage of water ever put on film.
5.  Has one of the most beautifully perfect endings of any film I’ve ever seen.

I think people sometimes forget this aspect of the French New Wave. Sure, there was an emphasis on a certain looseness and a more naturalistic approach. But that was always at the service of aesthetic beauty and lyricism. And, when it comes to beauty, of all the French New Wave films, I put Contempt right up there at the very top.

What moviemakers can learn: Music is often an over-used element in movies.  But Contempt’s score, composed by Georges Delerue, is among the most lyrical and effective ever recorded. Watch the way it dances with the images, each enhancing the other.

Other contenders for 1963: I have some things I still need to see from this year.  These include: Federico Fellini’s  (a bit embarrassed about that one), Luis García Berlanga’s The Executioner (El verdugo), Jacques Rozier’s Adieu Philippine and Elia Kazan’s America, America. I haven’t seen Peter Brook’s Lord of the Flies since high school English class, so I need to revisit it at some point to know where it’d place on this list. I really like Orson Welles’ The Trial and Martin Ritt’s Hud.  I love John Sturges’ The Great Escape and Stanley Donen’s Charade. And my closest runner-up is Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard.

After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work raising money for his next feature, Peril.

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