Blog Archives

Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971) | The Hammer Horror that turned Valerie Leon into a legendary scream queen

Blood from the Mummy's Tomb

After locating the tomb of Tera, Queen of Darkness in the Egyptian desert, archaeologist Julian Fuchs (Andrew Keir) returns to England with her mummy and sarcophagus where he secretly recreates her tomb under his house. But when he gives Tera’s ruby ring to his daughter Margaret (Valerie Leon), the ancient queen’s evil power tempts the young woman into helping her father’s rival, Corbeck (James Villiers), into restoring her to human form…

Based on Bram Stoker’s 1903 adventure novel The Jewel of the Seven Star, this supernatural shocker breathed sexy new life into the old mummy’s revenge plot and has become a enduring favourite amongst Hammer horror fans. It was also the fourth and last time that the company resurrected the ancient Egyptian avenger to join their stable of monsters.

Blood from the Mummy's Tomb

The first, The Mummy, in 1959, saw a bandaged Christopher Lee crashing about Bray Studios; the second, 1964’s The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, found Dickie Owen shuffling about Elstree; and the third, 1967’s The Mummy’s Shroud, meant a return to Bray, where Eddie Powell pulled on the swaddling to take out members of an expedition team.

For Blood, their final Mummy film, Hammer ditched the bandages and got the tall, buxom Carry On actress Valerie Leon to play (rather brilliantly, I might add) the dual roles of Egyptian queen of darkness and professor’s daughter. She’s the best thing about the film, which has one bizarre piece of plotting: the recreation of a tomb in the cellar of a suburban North London house. Now, who constructs something like that without getting any attention from nosey neighbours or the council? Only in Hammer’s fanciful Home Counties horror universe could it exist.

Keir (who was my favourite Bernard Quatermass in Hammer’s Quatermass and the Pit) does a stalwart job playing the obsessed Fuchs, a role that was originally intended for Peter Cushing. He had to leave the production after one day’s filming to care for his ailing wife, Helen (who died on 14 January 1971). And the seemingly cursed production had another setback five weeks into the six-week shoot at Elstree when the director, Seth Holt, had a fatal heart attack, which forced Michael Carreras into completing the movie.

blood from the mummy's tomb

Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb was released in October 1971 as a support feature to Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, and now is available on Doubleplay (DVD & Blu-ray) from Studiocanal, newly restored in HD, as part of their Hammer Horror Collection. It looks and sounds superb on Blu-ray, even if it does show up how fake those sets look; but the liberal use of Kensington gore is a vivid treat for horror-hounds. Oh, and Leon looks just stunning.

The extras include a trailer and a single featurette The Pharaoh’s Curse: Inside Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, in which a handful of Hammer experts provide insight into the film’s production, while Leon also shares her recollections.

By the way, the motion pictures soundtrack, featuring music by composer Tristam Cary (The Ladykillers, Quatermass and the Pit), was released by GDI Records back in 2002, and having find it just recently myself, it’s well worth tracking down.

Valerie Leon is a fantastic regular on the convention circuit and appears frequently at many film fairs throughout the UK, she even has her own one-woman show. Check out her official website here: http://www.valerieleon.com/

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Advertisements

Luis Buñuel: The Essential Collection | Seven must-see world cinema classics

Buñuel Boxset [Blu-ray]StudioCanal celebrates the work of the Spanish surrealist director Luis Buñuel with an Essential Collection box set featuring re-issues of seven of the director’s most significant films on Blu-ray.

Diary-of-a-Chambermaid

Diary of a Chambermaid (1964)
This biting satire of a middle-class French family in 1939 is drawn from Octave Mirbeau’s infamous novel and was an ideal subject for Buñuel’s particular incisive talents. Jeanne Moreau plays Celestine, a Parisian chambermaid who ingrains herself in a scandal with her philandering employer (Michel Piccoli).

Extras include a documentary and an interview with writer Jean-Claude Carrière. In French.

Belle de Jour

Belle de Jour (1967)
The 50th Anniversary Edition | 4k Restoration

A surrealistic voyage into the mind of a bored, wealthy housewife (Catherine Deneuve), who leads the double life of afternoon prostitution. This exquisite and spellbinding film won the Best Picture award at the 1976 Venice Film Festival.

Extras include interviews with writer Jean-Claude Carrière, director Diego Buñuel and Dr Sylvain Mimoun, commentary by professor Peter W Evans, and a trailer. In French.

The Milky Way

The Milky Way (1969)
The pilgrimage from Paris to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Spain of two French vagrants is interrupted by a series of bizarre encounters in this witty, metaphysical romp which became the first film in the director’s trilogy about ‘the search for truth’ (which was followed by The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Phantom of Liberty). 

Extras include a documentary, an interview with writer Jean-Claude Carrière, analysis by Peter W Evans and a trailer. In French.

Tristana

Tristana (1970)
In 1929 Toledo, innocent and devout orphan Tristana (Catherine Deneuve) goes to live with her guardian, Don Lope (Fernando Rey), whose fatherly affection turns to desire. But then Tristana falls for the charms of a young artist (Franco Nero). A mischievous mix of passion, social satire and black comedy, this is one of Buñuel’s most enjoyable films, and contains compelling performances from both Rey and Deneuve.

Extras include an interview with Franco Nero, a documentary and a trailer. In French, and also in Spanish.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
Winner of the 1972 Best Foreign Film Oscar, Buñuel’s sly, subversive satire is his surreal masterpiece. Again the director blurs the lines between dreams and realities in this wickedly funny puzzle box in which six middle-class characters try to dine together, but fate intervenes…

Extras include an interview with writer Jean-Claude Carrière, analysis by Peter W Evans, a documentary and a trailer. In French and Spanish.

Phantom-of-Liberty

The Phantom of Liberty (1974)
It’s impossible to describe the plot of this absurdist comedy, as it there isn’t one! It all begins with Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and ends with a revolution in the zoo: and the succession of surreal incidents in between make this the most anarchically funny of Buñuel’s canon. It’s most notorious scene features an elegant soiree with guests seated at toilet bowls…

Extras include an interview with writer Jean-Claude Carrière, analysis by Peter W Evans, a documentary and a photo gallery. In French.

That Obscure Object of Desire (1977)
Buñuel’s final film, which earned him the Best Foreign Film Oscar, is a rich, blackly comic, study in sexual obsession and politics. Fernando Rey is perfectly cast as middle-aged bourgeois businessman Mathieu, who becomes tortured by his desire for elusive maid, Conchita, played by two actresses, Carole Bouquet and Angela Molina.

Extras include interviews with writer Jean-Claude Carrière, Diego Buñuel, Carlos Saura, Carole Bouquet, Angela Molina, Pierre Lady and Edmond Richard. In French and Spanish.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Belle de Jour (1967) | Luis Buñuel’s exquisite exploration of female desire gets a 50th anniversary 4k restoration release

Belle de Jour (1967)

From Studiocanal comes the newly-restored 4k version of director Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour (1967) starring Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel and Michel Piccoli.

Belle de Jour (1967)

Séverine (Catherine Deneuve), the reserved wife of successful Parisian surgeon Pierre (Jean Sorel), is prone to masochistic fantasies which reveal her sexual frustration. Driven by a mixture of ennui and curiosity, she pays a visit to a brothel run by Madame Anaïs (Geneviève Page), where she begins to work there during the day under the name Belle de Jour.

Seemingly having found an inner peace through the satisfaction of her clients’ desires, things soon turn sour when Marcel (Michel Piccoli), a loutish friend of Pierre’s, insists on having Séverine all to himself. Panic-stricken, Séverine quits her dangerous day job but is it too late?

Belle de Jour (1967)

Buñuel blends memory, fantasy and reality, seamlessly, in his surrealistic voyage into the mind of Deneuve’s bored housewife to show the deep mysteries of sex without showing the sex act itself – and it is never certain if what is seen is reality or fantasy.

Sumptuously filmed in and around the streets of Paris (many of which you can still visit today), it is a exquisite exploration of female desire, but the film’s moral tone shocked the notorious British social activist Mary Whitehouse into a vocal campaign against the BBC on its first TV screening.

It was, however, Buñuel’s most successful film of his entire career, winning the Best Picture award at the 1976 Venice Film Festival. A spellbinding must-have for your world cinema collection.

Belle de Jour (1967)

The 50th Anniversary Edition is out now on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital download with brand new extras material (see below) and 6 exclusive art cards.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Commentary by professor Peter W Evans
• The Last Script
• A Story of Perversion or Emancipation?
• Interview with Dr Sylvain Mimoun
• NEW Trailer
• NEW Jean-Claude Carrière interview (fascinating stuff)
• NEW Masterclass with Diego Buñuel and Jean-Claude Carrière (also very illuminating)

Belle de Jour (1967)

To accompany the re-issue and to celebrate work of the Spanish surrealist director, Buñuel: The Essential Collection, a box-set of 7 of the director’s most significant films, will be released next week (and I can’t wait).

Luis Bunuel box-set

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Melody (1971) | This enchanting tale of first love and youthful rebellion is no longer a forgotten gem

Melody (1971)

‘A forgotten, inspiring gem’ Wes Anderson

Set against the backdrop of a 1970s south London comprehensive school, Melody was director Alan Parker’s debut screenplay and his first film collaboration with producer David Puttnam, and it reunited Mark Lester and Jack Wild, who starred in the 1968 musical film adaptation of Oliver!, alongside 11-year-old Tracy Hyde making her acting debut.

Melody (1971)

Quiet, well-behaved Daniel (Lester) and cheeky troublemaker Ornshaw (Wild) could not be more different but they become the best of friends. That is, until Daniel spots Melody (Tracy Hyde) at the school disco.

The boys’ friendship becomes jeopardised, as Ornshaw grows jealous when his Daniel seems more interested in a hanging out with a girl. Initially embarrassed by the attention, Melody comes to return Daniel’s feelings, and the couple announce to their parents, teachers and friends that they want to get married and now.

The adults attempt to dissuade them, but Daniel and Melody’s determination leads Ornshaw to have a change of heart. He and their classmates gather together at one of the children’s hideouts to ‘marry’ the couple, with their discovery leading to a final riotous, no-holds-barred showdown where the children stick it to the grown-ups…

Melody (1971)

The film was the brainchild of Puttnam, who had secured the rights to five Bee Gees songs and wanted to craft a movie around it. Drawing on the lyrics of those songs, as well as the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young hit ‘Teach Your Children’, Parker’s script captured what it was like to be a kid on the brink of adolescence in 1970s Britain, drawing inspiration from his and Puttnam’s own school experiences, and these are brought to vivid life by Warris Hussein (Doctor Who) and cinematographer Peter Suschitzky (A History of Violence), who make excellent use of the Lambeth and Soho locations.

Melody (1971)

While it scored huge success in Japan and South America when it was released in 1971, Melody – which would not have been made if not for some unlikely support in the guise of Joan Collins – got a lukewarm reception both at home and in the US (mostly on account of its poor promotion and being given the awkward title of S.W.A.L.K. (aka Sealed With A Loving Kiss).

But it has since grown into something of a cult, with director Wes Anderson using it as the inspiration for his film, Moonrise Kingdom, while Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron cites the film as the inspiration for him going into film-making.

Melody (1971)

Having finally watched in myself, I can guarantee that your heart will swell and you’ll have tears in your eyes as you see the world again through the eyes of these youngsters. It might paint a rosy view of inner city London life in the 1970s, but it will nevertheless bring much joy and contemplation about a much more innocent time. And the songs are so catchy, I went out and hunted down the original soundtrack.

Melody is available now on DVD, Blu-ray and EST as part of Studiocanal’s Vintage Classics Collection, and includes as special features, interviews with Lord David Puttnam, Sir Alan Parker, Waris Hussein and Mark Lester; plus a stills gallery.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Almodovar Collection | Six of the best from the Spanish director – restored and in one beautiful box-set

The Almodóvar Collection

From Studiocanal comes six newly-restored films from Spain’s celebrated filmmaker, Pedro Almodóvar – complete with brand new interviews and bonus extras – in one box-set on DVD and Blu-ray.

WHAT’S IN THE COLLECTION…
dark_habits

Dark Habits (1983)
Despite the commercial constraints that prevented Almodóvar from taking full flight, this is a ferociously funny satire of religious institutions and morality that still packs a punch. Cristina Sánchez Pascual plays a fugitive nightclub singer hiding out in an impoverished convent with a group of nuns, whose eccentric number include a heroin addicted Mother Superior, a writer of lurid pulp fiction and a acid head masochist with a tiger for a pet. Imagine Sister Act, dressed in day-glo and speeding on a cocktail of LSD and cocaine. Fabulous kitsch fun.

what-have-i-done-to-deserve-this

What Have I Done to Deserve This? (1984)
Almodóvar mercilessly sends up family life in this terrific hyperrealist black comedy starring Carmen Maura (the director’s favourite leading lady) as a blissfully clueless Madrid mother driven to amphetamine addiction by her ungrateful family. Her husband is forging Hitler’s diaries, one son sells drugs, while another is pimping himself to a lecherous dentist. Add in some sex maniacs, a pet lizard, and a mischievous mother-in-law (Chus Lampgreave) and you have Almodóvar at his most absurdist.

the-law-of-desire

The Law of Desire (1987)
This kitsch camp melodrama was Almodóvar’s first film to be screened in the UK, and helped propel Antonio Banderas onto the international stage. It was also Almodóvar first explicitly gay movie as it spun an overblown tale about the complicated love lives of a gay film director (Eusebio Poncela), his hunky lover (Banderas) and a struggling transgender actress (Carmen Maura). Playing fast and furious with Spain’s beloved telenovella genre, this is a hilarious, albeit offensive, delight with more than whiff of early John Waters in its blackly comic approach.

women_on_the_verge_of_a_nervous_breakdown_poster

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)
Almodóvar scored a Best Foreign Film Oscar nomination for this OTT screwball comedy in which a pregnant actress (Carmen Maura in fabulous form) becomes embroiled in a chaotic series of misadventures when she desperately tries to track down her ex-lover. Irreverent and surreal, this stagey cult hit is pure slapstick of the wackiest kind.

kika

Kika (1993)
This outrageous satire on television journalism follows an overly optimistic Madrid beautician named Kika (Veronica Forque) whose tangled relationships with an underwear photographer, an expat American novelist and a psychotic escaped rapist turn into tabloid TV fodder by an unscrupulous reporter (Victoria Abril). Attracting controversy over its rape scene, Kika is one film in Almodóvar’s canon that deserves re-assessment and revisiting, especially in how the director approaches his favourite theme – the power of women. It also marked the first time the director collaborated with fashion designer Jean-Paul Gautier.

theflowerofmysecret-dvdfilm-0063289

The Flower of My Secret (1995)
This precursor to Almodóvar’s critically-acclaimed success, All About my Mother, is amongst the director’s most elegant and emotive works. Ditching the kitsch in favour of a more low-key approach, Almodóvar weaves a sentimental tale in which Marisa Paredes (in a career best role) plays a bestselling novelist of pulp romance at the crossroads in her professional and private life. Nominated for multiple Goya awards, this is an intimate yet comic portrait of suffering and pain, and marked a big turning point in Almodóvar’s filmmaking, which makes it the perfect final feature to complete this box-set.

THE EXTRAS
Each disc includes brand new interviews with the director, his producing-partner brother Agustín, plus his stable of stars, including Marisa Paredes, Mercedes Guilamon, Javier Camara, Carlos Areces, Anabel Alonzo, Esther Garcia, Alberto Iglesias, Elena Anaya, Javier Camara, Rossy di Palma, Victoria Abril and Loles Leon.

the-almodovar-collection_2

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Sid & Nancy (1986) | Alex Cox’s harrowing punk tragedy turns 30!

Sid & Nancy (1986)

Sid & Nancy is one of the most important films ever made about the UK punk era, featuring career-defining performances from Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb, and made director Alex Cox the one to watch following his 1984 cult Repo Man. To celebrate the punk classic’s 30th anniversary – as part of the Punk at 40 celebrations – comes a restored DVD/Blu-ray release from Studiocanal in the UK.

Sid & Nancy (1986)

This isn’t a tale of ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’, but a harrowing drama about ‘drugs, depression and death’ – one that deals with the tragic life of the Sex Pistols’ bass player Sid Vicious. And it all rests on Gary Oldman’s ferocious performance as the drug-addled Vicious (aka John Beverly), as well as Chloe Webb’s grating turn as his groupie American girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Cox’s gruelling depiction of Sid’s slow downward spiral into heroin addiction, self parody and miserable death is anything but entertaining, but as a sensitive and powerful character study, it makes for compulsive viewing.

Sid & Nancy (1986)

The special edition Blu-ray/DVD features the restored film approved by cinematographer Roger Deakins (Hail Caesar, The Shawshank Redemption), and a host of special features, including interviews with Deakins, director Alex Cox and Big Audio Dynamite’s Don Letts.

To celebrate its release, there’s a special screening on 29 August in support of War Child at Screen on the Green – the same venue where the Sex Pistols played in 1977 – which will also include a DJ set from Don Letts . For more information, visit: http://www.everymancinema.com/films/film-info?film=14451

 

Une Femme Est Une Femme (1961) | Jean-Luc Godard’s delightful tribute to the Hollywood musical

Une Femme est une Femme (1961)

Parisian striptease dancer Angela (Anna Karina) yearns to have a child, but her bookseller husband Emile (Jean-Claude Brialy) is only interested in cycling. Angela then turns her attentions to Emile’s best friend Alfred (Jean-Paul Belmondo) who ends up falling in love with her.

This delightful light comedy from 1961 was Jean-Luc Godard’s second feature, but his first to be shot in colour and in a studio. It also earned him and his then wife Anna Karina awards at the Berlin Film Festival.

Une Femme est une Femme (1961)

Channelling the spirit of American screwball comedies and musicals of the 1930’s, with an affectionate nod to director Ernst Lubitsch (Belmondo’s character is named after the Hollywood legend), this off-centre tribute is dominated by an engaging Karina as the naïve dancer and Belmondo as the gauche, tongue-tied Alfred. A colourful confection indeed.

Godard The Essential Collection

 

Une Femme Est Une Femme (Cert PG, 80min) is available on StudioCanal’s Jean-Luc Godard The Essential Blu-ray Collection five-disc box set alongside featuring Breathless, Le Mépris, Pierrot le fou and Alphaville.

The special features include and introduction by Colin McCabe, an interview with Anna Karina, and galleries of photos and posters.

 

Nina Forever (2015) | A grave but sexy ghoul-mance for the morbidly curious

nina forever poster

Lovelorn supermarket shelf-stacker and paramedic in training Holly (Abigail Hardingham), sets her sights on suicidal colleague, Rob (Cian Barry), who is still grieving over the death of his girlfriend Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy). But during the couple’s first fumbling attempt at sex, Nina emerges from a blood-stained mattress to interrupt them. It soon becomes clear that the potty-mouthed Nina has no intention of letting Rob go, and wants Holly out of the way…

Nina Forever (2015)

This quirky British indie horror comedy comes from writer/director brothers, Ben and Chris Blaine, who cut their teeth editing Jack Whitehall’s Bad Education UK TV sitcom. But it’s worlds away from that show’s irreverent humour, as guilt, loss and closure lies at the dark heart of this black comedy, played out through a bunch of characters who are all stuck in their own particular limbo.

Nina Forever (2015)

As Nina, O’Shaughnessy (Utopia) steals the show and watching her I was reminded of another ghostly comedy in which a restless spirit comes between a couple: in Noel Coward’s quintessentially English comedy of manners, Blithe Spirit. And there are shades of Coward’s disruptive Elvira in O’Shaughnessy’s Nina, only with the added vocal mannerisms of Michelle Gomez’s Missy from Doctor Who.

Nina Forever (2015)

Cian Barry (Doctor Foster) and Abigail Hardingham (Hollyoaks Later) bring a moody emo intensity to their dysfunctional wannabe lovers, Rob and Holly, while also getting their kit off for the film’s many sex scenes – which actually left me cold (probably on account of Nina’s constant corpus interruptus.

Nina Forever (2015)

While the film does falter in parts, David Troughton’s forgiving dad and Elizabeth Elvin’s grieving mum are on hand to paper over the cracks, with one scene in particular, in which Troughton’s Dan lets slip his mask to vent his anger, supplying some genuinely raw emotion.

Nina Forever is released by StudioCanal on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK from 22 February 2016

 

Alphaville (1965) | Jean-Luc Godard’s seminal future noir is a blast from the past

Alphaville (1965)Fusing George Orwell’s 1984, a plot from 1950s pulp fiction, references from 1930s serials, FW Murnau’s Nosferatu, Fritz Lang’s Dr Mabuse, and Jean Cocteau’s Orphee, the 1965 monochrome future noir Alphaville is one of Jean-Luc Godard’s most idiosyncratic and inventive films, yet also one of his more accessiable ones.

Having appeared as novelist Peter Cheyney’s private eye Lemmy Caution in a series of French films in the 1950s and 1960s, US actor Eddie Constantine reprises his screen persona in this futuristic homage, which has been released as part of StudioCanal’s Jean-Luc Godard The Essential Blu-ray Collection.

When fellow secret agent Henri Dixon (Akim Tamiroff) disappears, Lemmy Caution sets out to the über-modernist city of Alphaville. His mission: to locate his old pal; destroy the sentient Alpha 60 computer, which is holding the city under totalitarian control; and apprehend its creator, Professor von Braun (Howard Vernon). With the assistance of von Braun’s programmer daughter Natacha (Anna Karina), can Lemmy rage against the machine or will he be assimilated like the rest of Alphaville’s denizens?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Winner of the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival in 1965, Alphaville has become one of those modern film classics that’s on every world cinema fans hit list. While not a sci-fi in the strictest sense, it’s truly inspired, helped greatly by the dazzling stylistic images of 1960s Paris that evokes the future (mainly brutalist architecture of glass and steel decked out in modernist decor) and pays homage to film noir (with its starkly-lit shots of seedy hotels and Paris’ périphérique); while Godard’s underlying themes of conformity versus individualism continue to resonant. And bringing it all together is the thunderously dramatic score and the performances of the two leads. A deadpan Constantine makes for an ideal dour, grizzled detective that’s seen better days (and the fact he’s not a good actor just emphasises Godard’s playful approach), while Karina oozes a coldly ethereal charm as the programmer on the path to enlightenment.

Godard The Essential Collection

 

Alphaville (Cert PG, 95min) is available on StudioCanal’s Jean-Luc Godard The Essential Blu-ray Collection five-disc box set alongside Breathless, Le Mépris, Pierrot Le Fou, and Une Femme est Une Femme.

The special features on this release include a candid interview with Anna Karina; an introduction by Colin McCabe; poster gallery and a trailer.

Jean-Luc Godard is also being honoured in a retrospective at the BFI Southbank in London until March 2016. Click here for details.

 

 

Le Mépris (1963) | Is Jean-Luc Godard’s New Wave sensation an arthouse triumph or just an aching bore?

Le Mépris (1963)Released in 1963, Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mépris oozed 1960s style and sexuality, mainly due to the bare buttocks of its seductive star, Brigitte Bardot.

One of the New Wave’s masterpieces and a landmark in world cinema, the lauded French drama is back in cinemas in the UK, and is the centrepiece of a major retrospective of the director’s 60-year career at the BFI Southbank in London. It is also one of the key highlights in StudioCanal’s five-disc Blu-ray collection being released on 1 February.

But does it hold up 52 years on?

More Bold! More Brazen! And Much, Much More Bardot!
French screenwriter Paul Javal (Michel Piccoli) is offered a commission to rewrite a stylised adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey being directed by the legendary Fritz Lang (playing himself). But he’s soon at war with his beautiful wife, Camille (Brigitte Bardot), who mistakenly believes he is using her to get friendly with the film’s brash American Jeremy Prokosh (Jack Palance)…

Based on the novel A Ghost at Noon by Italian writer Alberto Moravia (The Conformist), Le Mépris was a huge success in France – and much of that was due to Bardot’s nude scenes which were added in at the behest of the film’s producers, Joseph Levine and Carlo Ponti. Godard had originally wanted Kim Novak and Frank Sinatra, but Ponti wanted his wife Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. In end, however, Godard got the right mix right with sex kitten Brigitte Bardot and French actor Michel Piccoli.

Le Mépris (1963)

Making great use of the location settings (firstly Rome, then the island of Capri), Godard and cinematographer Raoul Coutard perfectly capture (in Scope) the primary colours of the Pop Art movement that was big in the day. With its radical improvised set-ups and repetitive use of Georges Delerue’s mournful soundtrack, this sumptuously dressed marriage-in-crisis melodrama certainly gave audiences something they had never seen before. But this monumental arthouse experiment is also an aching bore for those to don’t ‘get’ the caustic in-jokes and movie-making references.

Le Mépris (1963)

A famous quote by film pioneer Louis Lumiere opens Godard’s artfest: ‘Cinema is an invention without future…’ And this is what drives most of th dialogue, which comes off like an internal rant by the director, who uses the film to expound his New Wave theories. While cinephiles may cream their pants over Le Mépris being a sleekly seductive film about film-making, newbies will be left wondering what the hell is going on as Piccoli and Bardot bicker for what seems like an eternity (actually 30-minutes) in a sparse modernist apartment in Rome.

Le Mépris (1963)

The French film fans I watched the StudioCanal release with (which had issues with the subtitles at one point), laughingly described the film as ‘L’Avventura in colour’. Which it sort of is. But it also shares its arthouse DNA with Antonioni’s despairing romance, L’Eclisse, which came the year before. Only instead of static shots of the characters moving ever so slowly in a monochrome suburban Rome, we have Godard’s slow tracking shots as his characters spew dialogue like ‘When I hear the word culture I reach for my chequebook’. So, by the time the film finally moved to the blue-green waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea for the Capri scenes, my viewing companions were queuing up to drown themselves.

Le Mépris (1963)

Thankfully the stunning scenery and architecture (notably the modernist Villa Malaparte on Punta Massullo), Palance’s red-hot Alpha Romeo 2600 and Bardot’s bare flesh do help to distract from the ‘non-existent’ story and wholly unlikeable characters: especially Bardot’s cold and contrary Camille, who not only tests the patience of Piccoli’s frustrated writer, but also ours…

Godard The Essential CollectionLe Mépris (Cert: 15, 99min) features alongside Breathless, Pierrot Le Fou, Alphaville and Une Femme est Une Femme in StudioCanal’s Jean-Luc Godard The Essential Blu-ray Collection (available from 1 February) and is accompanied by the following extras:
• Introduction with Colin McCabe
Once Upon A Time There Was… Contempt: An indepth 53-minute featurette in which Godard separates fact from myth over the making of the film.
Contempt… Tenderly: A 32-minute ‘making-of’ that’s overshadowed by the previous one.
The Dinosaur and the Baby: This terrific 61-minute TV special featuring Godard and Lang in conversation is a real treat.
Conversation with Fritz Lang: The cinematic legend is interviewed in a series of on-set recordings (15min).

%d bloggers like this: