Throwback Thursday: Godard’s masterpiece Le Mépris still smoulders

Brigitte Bardot (R) and Jean-Luc Godard (L) on the set of Godard's 'Masculin-Feminin' in 1965. (AFP)
Updated 10 May 2018
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Throwback Thursday: Godard’s masterpiece Le Mépris still smoulders

  • Director Jean-Luc Godard proved a master at thrusting bare-faced Marxist ideology onto cinema screens
  • With “Le Mépris” (Contempt), which turns 55 in December, Godard also proved a master manipulator of human emotion

ROTTERDAM: Director Jean-Luc Godard is a master of many things. With his stylish, noir-ish debut “Breathless” (À bout de soufflé, 1960), he was established as the French New Wave’s master of moody, monochrome, cigarette-sucking, fedora-touting cool.

With his later, post-1968 protest works, Godard proved a master at thrusting bare-faced Marxist ideology onto cinema screens. And throughout his entire, six-decade career, Godard has proved a master of tearing up the rulebook — pioneering a fiercely original, cerebral, grainy, jump-cut, narrative-free and often impenetrable approach which best embodies every cliché, good or bad, about so-called arthouse cinema.

But with “Le Mépris” (Contempt), which turns 55 in December, Godard also proved a master manipulator of human emotion. I recently had the chance to re-watch this 1963 masterpiece on a big screen. It’s a film I've seen perhaps a dozen times before, but even anticipating every bitter conversational turn and faux-profound witticism, the emotional rigor of Godard’s sixth picture remained undiminished. I left the cinema in a nervy but electrified state, needing an hour in a quiet café to steady and appreciate the tragic freewheeling chain of thoughts unravelling.

Michel Piccoli plays a French scriptwriter, recently arrived in Rome to sell his soul, and maybe his beautiful young wife — a timeless turn from Brigitte Bardot — to a crass American movie producer (Jack Palance) making a narcissistic version of Homer’s “Odyssey”. With stately satire, German expressionist master Fritz Lang, of “Metropolis” authorship, plays himself as the project’s cynically aloof director.

A movie about moviemaking, but also about love. And hate. The breakdown of Piccoli and Bardot’s marriage — over a single, real-time, 31-minute conversation, inside the claustrophobic, barren walls of their new apartment — is the film’s emotional core, a stunningly virtuoso second act of three.

But there’s so much more to chew on: “Le Mépris” is about Greek gods and movie goddesses. About integrity, lust and power. About America and postwar Europe. About the poetry of Technicolor sunlight. “Le Mépris” is about humans — and how vicious, cruel and transactional we truly are.


Bangladeshi president urged to curb poll violence

Updated 3 min 9 sec ago
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Bangladeshi president urged to curb poll violence

  • “One party is conducting a countrywide election campaign while another party cannot even hang posters,” Selima Rahman told journalists
DHAKA: Bangladesh’s opposition alliance, Jatiya s Oikya Front (JOF) — led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) — has called on President Abdul Hamid to help bring an end to violent clashes between followers of the country’s leading political parties ahead of the national election scheduled for Dec. 30.
The JOF submitted a letter to the president’s office requesting a meeting with Hamid on Tuesday, although one of the coalition’s leaders, Subrata Chowdhury, told Arab News, “We are yet to receive any reply.”
Violence has flared between the ruling Awami League (AL) and the BNP, with confrontations taking place across the country since December 10, when campaigning in all 300 constituencies began.
Within the first week, two AL supporters were killed, while more than 500 leaders and supporters of both parties were injured. The AL claims that police have arrested around 400 BNP supporters.
“We are yet to receive a reply from the president’s office,” said Subrata Chowdhury a top leader of opposition alliance JOF who is also a contender in this election from a constituency in the capital Dhaka.
In an interview with Arab News, Chowdhury — who is running for election in a Dhaka constituency — alleged that opposition parties are unable to campaign properly because of violence from their opponents and police harassment.
“We are facing injustice,” he said. “Our leaders can’t stay in their constituency and move freely as plain-clothed law enforcers intimidate them to leave the area. There is no level playing field.”
He went on to compare the country’s election commission (EC) to “a referee not playing an impartial role.”
This was why the JOF had requested a meeting with the president, he explained: “Our election commission is a constitutional body, appointed by the president of the country. So we want to present our demands to the president.”
He added that the JOF expects to sit with the election commission again on Dec. 17 “to ensure a level playing field.” Political scientist Dr. Ataur Rahman said that, according to the constitution, the election commission now holds executive power in the country.
“Anything concerning a free and fair election depends on the role of the commission, and the present government will not take any responsibility for this,” he told Arab News. “So, in the interests of the country, the president can ask the election commission to perform its duties without any fear.”
He added, however, that there are also limits to the president’s power, since he is himself a candidate nominated by a political party.
Rahman called the ongoing violence “unexpected,” pointing out that there had been a number of successful meetings between the parties about the election. However, he added that he did not believe the violence would jeopardize the election. “In this charged situation everybody is trying to establish their might,” he said. “And it seems that the major parties are practicing the ‘Might is Right’ formula. But the election will most likely take place according to the announced schedule.”
On Sunday, Selima Rahman, vice chair of the BNP, delivered a letter to the election commission requesting the immediate deployment of the army to keep the peace and to ensure that all candidates are given the same opportunities to campaign.
“One party is conducting a countrywide election campaign while another party cannot even hang posters,” she told journalists. “We would like to know the EC’s definition of a level playing field.
“The police are acting like our opposition. Attacks have been launched against BNP leaders and activists, including Mirza Abbas and Mahbub Uddin Khokon. Khokon was injured by police fire. We are facing obstacles to our campaigning in Dhaka,” she continued.
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda denied the opposition’s claims. “Candidates are able to conduct campaigns and they are not facing any obstacles,” he told reporters on Saturday at his office in Dhaka.
Referring to the clashes, Huda said, “We will take action based on reports from the investigation committees.”
He also claimed that the EC would write to the Ministry of Home Affairs “soon,” asking them not to harass candidates and campaigners, nor to arrest anyone without good reason.