Contempt is in a way Godard’s version of Day for Night. Instead of celebrating the magic of the movies like Truffaut, he makes it look like work. Or at least making commercially accessible films is mind-numbing work while making art films is an intellectual joy. The opening sequence featuring a nude Brigitte Bardot is an ode to the “sex sells” tenant to commerciality by having her listlessly asking her husband if he loves her body parts. Normally, I roll my eyes at female nudity for female nudity’s sake but I could not help smiling at Godard’s middle finger to the producers who insisted on it. Even the filters could not save it from becoming boring.
Even though this film is the most linear of his films, Godard still finds ways to play with the notion of “a beginning, a middle, and an end . . .but not in that order” in quick montages in which the images are temporally displaced. These sequences have an energy to them as if to convey Godard’s joy at messing with time even in the context of a commercial film. Also, the middle section of the film has its own beginning, middle, and end. The scene plays out in a long tracking shot as the couple begins to talk about the apartment’s décor to a discussion about Paul’s job to Camille ending their relationship. The length of the scene not only builds the tension between the couple but also builds a simmering tension over having a beginning, middle, and an end. Paul may not want his relationship to end, but like all commercial films it must. And it must end resolutely with a death. Godard suggests that resolute endings are a death to the possibility of films as opposed to the open endings that leaves the audience to question what this film means to them.