Shelflife — Movie

Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt (1963) is one of the great films of the 1960s, and the Criterion Collection’s double-disc DVD gives you a great look at it as well as a small treasure-trove of behind-the-scenes material on Godard and the French New Wave.

Based on an Alberto Moravia novel, the film is a lyrical, sun-splashed tragicomedy about a failing marriage and a troubled film production, a new film version of The Odyssey being shot on the Italian coast, with the great Fritz Lang (played by himself) as director (Godard himself plays Lang’s assistant). The married couple are a screenwriter (Michel Piccoli) and his sulky new bride (Brigitte Bardot), and they’re both at curious odds with the film’s arrogant American producer (Jack Palance).

Criterion’s DVD is letterboxed, which means that the full splendor of Raoul Coutard’s cinematography and of Godard’s epic-expansive camera movements can be fully experienced on video for the first time ever in the United States. And the extras are full of wonders as well: an interview/dialogue between Lang and Godard; a shy but articulate Godard in a TV interview; and a pair of short on-the-set documentaries by New Wave director Jacques Rozier.