Godard’s Le Mepris, Mankiewicz’s The Barefoot Contessa, Moravia’s Il disprezzo

Written by Joe D on November 12th, 2010

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The Beautiful B.B. she looks a little like Ava Gardner

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Ava in Contessa

Jean Luc Godard is getting an honorary Academy Award! How great is that, of course he won’t show up for it. Maybe this was on my mind when I started watching Joseph Mankiewicz’s The Barefoot Contessa.

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Producer In Screening Room- Contessa

The films are similar, they both have Movie People as characters. There’s a director with integrity, Fritz Lang in Contempt and Humphrey Bogart in Contessa. A beautiful goddess, desired by all, Ava Gardner in Contessa, Bridgit Bardot in Contempt. They are both concerned with personal integrity in the face of a powerful prick,an American film producer that wants to control everyone, have everyone kiss his ass which they do for money.

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Producer wants Sex Goddess Wife

Michel Piccoli loses his wife to Jerry the producer when he accepts the job of re-writing the script for Jerry’s production of the Odessy, he says “I’ll be able to pay off our apartment!” This theme of estrangement between a husband and wife comes from Alberto Moravia’s novel, Il disprezzo. The book was published the same year that The Barefoot Contessa was released, maybe they somehow fused in Godard’s brain. The Rich American Movie Producer, The Super Sexy Star, The Director, The Writer, The Yes Man. These are the new Mythic characters for the 20th Century. Like the Greek Gods, they live on Olympus and they have petty squabbles that effect all life on Earth. They test your souls, tempting you, like the Devil on the mountain top offering Jesus all he can see.

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There’s even a big sceen in a screening room in both films, in Contempt Jack Palance (Jerry Prokosh) throws a film can at the screen like a Greek discus, expressing his displeasure at the footage screened. In Contessa Edmund O’Brien turns in a horrible over the top performance as Kirk Edwards ass licking yes man. Constantly mopping his face with a giant handkerchief, babbling like a baboon, chewing the scenery in an over the top style. Jerry Prokosh has a beautiful female assisstant that he constantly degrades, getting her to bend over so he can write a check on her back.

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Degradation Of Beauty By Producer In Screening Room- Contempt

In Contessa Bogart is the man in peril of losing his integrity, the director of the proposed film. In Contempt Michel Piccoli is the writer, the man in danger of losing all to the American producer, Fritz Lang is the director but he seems above it all, like a God Of Film already up in the Celestial Movie Studio, the eccentricities of the Earth bound barely affect him. Maybe someone should make a new film about the New Gods, The New inhabiters of our Cinematic Olympus, The American Producer! The Sex Symbol, The Director in trouble, like Odysseus trying to get back to Ithica.

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New Gods - New Myths replace the Old

4 Comments so far ↓

  1. Nov
    20
    9:46
    PM
    GLG

    Given these thoughtful comments about film, you might enjoy AVA GARDNER: TOUCHES OF VENUS (Entasis Press, 2010), an anthology of fiction, non-fiction, and verse about the inimitable Ava. Ms. Gardner’s biographer Lee Server called it “a divine tribute to the Goddess of sex, glamour, and passion.”

  2. Nov
    21
    12:47
    AM
    Joe D

    Thanks for letting me know about this book. It sounds like a gem. I will get a copy and check it out.

  3. Mar
    10
    1:44
    PM
    Rafe

    B.B. looks nothing like Ava Gardner. No resemblance, whatsoever. C’mon!

  4. Mar
    18
    8:04
    PM
    Joe D

    Only in a general Film Goddess way.

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