Monday, December 1, 2008


Godard's film Contempt is a film that works through the making of a film. He takes us through the process of production, from producer to director and scriptwriter. But the film is not only a comment on the multifarious roles of these individuals; it is primarily a film centered around the woman character, the potential arbiter of the scriptwriter's musings and their anonymous tango with emotional animosity. Godard opens the film with her in a most primeval state, laying prostrate in the nude. This laying-bare of her whole body is juxtaposed with a dialog that fragments her body. Camille (Bardot) asks Paul if he likes parts of her body, all separate parts, and never the whole. The camera follows these parts, tearing away from the unity of her body. This "making-apparent" the assemblage of the body opens up the topic of language. It is words themselves which tear apart and bring things together. He attends to the furtive nature (/the shifting appearance) of language through the various language barriers between characters in the film. But he also brings forth this dimension of the emotional, of body language. This is clearly expressed in the relationship between Paul and Camille, both of whom struggle to cope with their emotional differences. These differences prompt erratic behavior in the two main characters. Life between these two is like a fold or a tide that swallows the action. Instead of acting, they wallow in their indecisiveness, their love loses its potency, its desirous capacity. This emotional landscape, this directionlessness, has a tendency to fold in on ones "frame" of reference. Both Camille and Paul feel the emptiness, and yet they fail to comprehend their emotions. As humans, we try to solidify love, to put it into “truth”. But it is as invisible as the language that speaks of it, it is an emotion. This brings me to Lang’s comment about God, he says, “Now it's no longer the presence of God, but the absence of God, that reassures man.” It is his absence that reassures us, but what fills up this absence other than faith, passion, or emotion? This is precisely the same case for love. Despite the fact that you can “act” love, or show love, it is an intangible unity. It is passion or emotion for something or someone that fills the “frame” with its potencies, its potentials. But in the case of Camille and Paul, this feeling within the “frame” seeps out, and they wonder where it has gone, how they can reclaim it. This seeping finds its way out from the efficacy and assemblage of the fold. New events and “indiscernibles” let loose parts of the fold. We cannot contain within ourselves a single mode of being. There are constantly internal and external stimuli which mold and shape the way we are attuned to other stimuli (including memories, feelings, objects, etc.), so that there is this constant flux. This instability of the individual also brings us back to the instability of truth. Jerry belies the “stability of truth,” he dominates, he wants reactions (he provokes), and furthermore he negates creation. He forces the ills and illusions of “power” over other individuals. Is he not the force behind the rupture between Paul and Camille? Despite the fact that we cannot point to an exact reasoning for this, or a precise moment in the film, we get the sense that Jerry is the wedge between the two main protagonists. Also, Jerry frequents a little book the size of his palm, reading from it various proverbs. This authority of the proverb brings to light how much text and logic add to our own indecisive or “in-between” states and the erratic or "being-lost" behavior that results. This brings to mind the comment of Lang’s that says “the illogical borrows from the logical”. These words (speech, dialog, etc.) “battle” the on-earth of our connections; our inability to express frustrates, and accentuates our earthly being-there/here, our position in the world without relying on language to define our status, our percepts. Godard uses distant shots in order to empty the image of emotion, of passion. This distance has the effect of alienation, we too do not quite know where to place our emotions, so we keep them at a bit of a distance. The few shots that are close-up come at moments of intense emotion. Take for instance, the scene where Paul slaps Camille across the face. Thereafter, Godard cuts to a close-up of her turning her face, which is hiding against the wall at first and slowly turns to reveal itself in all its potency. Camille expresses her desire for newness, spontaneity and potential, and yet, she can not escape; she is folded in, not just into a relationship with Paul, but a social relationship with everything that connects with Paul: the house, the clothes, these items of culture. Overall, Godard shows us that both language and feelings struggle to work together. He shows how language has a tendency to dominate in our culture, to the point where it tries to replace or label our emotions, so much so to the point where we lose touch with emotions and do not know how to respond to them.

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