Saturday, July 02, 2011

Great Movies of Summer: "Le Mepris" [1963]

Le Mepris ("Contempt") [1963]
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Cinematography by Raoul Coutard
Music Score by Georges Delerue

Shot in Rome and on the Isle of Capri, this seminal French-Italian New Wave film provides a vicarious, visceral immersion into the heights of summer. Much has been written on its existential meanings, its literary references, its arthouse mise-en-scène. What interests me, though, is its pure cinema - its immediate, sensual artistry.

Over the languid, churning strings of Georges Delerue's brooding, original score, under the steep, angle of a high sun burnishing the earthen-colored stucco walls, laying them bare and ablaze with scant relief of stark shade, the long tracking shots, the crack of gravel underfoot, and with back-and-forth conversations often repeated by a character translating between languages, the scenes shot outside the Cinecitta Studio buildings are heavy with afternoon heat.

Later, as we climb around the pitched, platonic geometries of the Casa Malaparte, otherworldly in its siting on the edge of a rocky cliff, timeless in its elementary architectural detail, we are treated to every kind of solar trick and treat - washing the muted red plaster in relief against the dappled refraction of cobalt sea below, hitting hot the flat, unprotected stone terrace roof above, and reflecting through raked violet shadows on the steps to get there - you can feel the sun on your neck and the sweet smell of jasmine & honeysuckle swelling the balmy air. 

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