Jean-Luc Godard’s “Contempt/Le mepris” (1963) is the first part of his religious trilogy, followed by “Hail, Mary” (1985) and “Woe Is Me” (1993). While “Contempt” examines the psychological mechanism of relations between humans and gods of pagan “design” – the human humans (the people with psychology of god-worshippers) and the human gods (people with psychology of unconscious identification with gods), “Hail, Mary” analyzes the psychological roots of the Christian cult of Saint Mary, and “Woe is Me” – the return of pagan gods into post-Christian modernity in a form of technological constructions, tools and toys dominating people’s life in Western democracies.
In his analysis of religious psychology Godard separates people from religious (in a narrow sense) practices and metaphorizes these practices on personal and social relations between people in order to make their religious essence more articulate and vivid for the perception of the viewers. Religious psychology is not necessary creates loyalty to despotic dogmas (many atheists are very religious by psychology). In “Contempt” Godard shows how religious feelings show itself in private relations between Paul (Michel Piccoli), a modest writer of detective stories but educated and with an exceptional existentially spiritual taste person, and his wife Camille (Brigitte Bardot), a monumental beauty, and in social relations between Paul (identifying with Homer and Odyssey) and the mighty Hollywood producer Jeremiah Prokosch (the new incarnation of Poseidon/Neptune), played by Jack Polance in the only intellectually serious performance of his whole career. The both “gods” – Camille and Prokosch, are depicted with tender and subtle caricaturishness, while Paul’s destiny Godard generalizes as that of us all, the humanity. Godard deconstructs the relations between humans and gods as known in history - as metaphoric constructions of markedly sociomorphic relations between human beings as such (personified by Paul) and the human gods (personified by Camille and Prokosch). On the level of the plot the film describes the disagreements between Paul (the author of screenplay), Fritz Lang (the director) who plays himself, and Prokosch (the producer) – all trying together to make a film based on Homer’s Odyssey. But Godard’s scholarly intentions in the film are not limited to symbolizing a certain type of relations between human beings into relations between humans and gods. The second important scientific contribution of Godard in “Contempt” is his classification of the types of bonds human beings are prone to establish between themselves and our historical past, and themselves and any work of art they perceive and react on. Here Prokosch personifies the type of perception of the past which is based on our projection into the historical past of our self-aggrandizement (our megalomaniacal need). For him Ancient Greece is a kind of Olympus in comparison with today’s life. This is, essentially, a conservative position based on authoritarian/totalitarian behavioral habits including the proneness for religious or secular cult of ancestors. The second position is represented by Lang who tends to “objectively” study the human past without the need for any identification with it. This position is that of liberal scholars – it’s the accumulation of a kind of an archival knowledge about the past without any worshipful or critical emotions. The third position is represented by Paul who sees in people of the previous epochs our existential brothers. He learns from the past and from the art and understood that people who lived before us made their own attempts to resolve their problems with gods as idealized models (theologized, from Olympus, or living on the Olympus of the tops of the social hierarchy), as we today trying to with the human gods of our times. Existential identification with our ancient ancestors is simultaneously brotherly and critical. The same three positions – projection of self-aggrandizement (or its negative reflection – the dismissal: “I love-I hate” approach), “objective” position of “neutral/truthful” representation, and existential identification Godard discerns in our relations with works of art.
“Contempt” occupies not only a unique place in history of cinema and Western culture in general, but a distinguished place of an exemplary work of art.
Please, visit: www.actingoutpolitics.com to read an essay about the film (with analysis of stills from it) – “Psychology of Human Obsession with Super-human (Human Need for Association with Gods as a Result of Problems in Relations between People)”.
“The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Is a film-intellectual stylization in which sexual exoticism and melodramatic accent serve as vehicles for Fassbinder’s elaborate analysis of today’s culturally elitist sensibility. The very style of cinematic narration reflects affectation of the film’s characters (when sincerity and pretense don’t contradict one another but unite in the art of spontaneous creativity). Fassbinder’s narrative style is semantically dense to an exceptional degree as his tool for the probing the characters’ psychology and the content and plot of the film. The film is a romantic parody, a work of art that analyzes its own love toward the world we live in today, love in spite of everything. It is a confession in being tremendously attracted to what can be called a modernity in human emotions, but Fassbinder’s melting attraction to it is going together with his ascetic effort to comprehend and to criticize what is so irresistible in today’s human beings with an intellectual calling. Petra von Kant is the best of us, and she is also an alerting sign of danger that the charm of democratic modernity carries inside. The analysis of the very mechanism of the aestheticism of living and feeling is not an easy adventure. Fassbinder mobilizes his scholarly powers to penetrate the aesthetic charms of the main protagonist and her reasoning about life. The predatoriness he finds in the very depth of democratic worldview is, no question, more veiled and even beautified than in pre-democratic behavioral style and in today’s neo-conservative demarches, but simultaneously it is more insidious and more seductive. This film is a necessary gift to anyone with an aesthetic sensitivity and the need to think what is behind the surface of life. It is about the human intellectual power (personified by the director’s thinking in and through the cinematic visuality) deployed against the beauty of the film’s images, and it is about the beauty of the intellectual power deployed against the defensive structures which the minds of the protagonists create to confuse and to entertain themselves and one another. Please, visit: www.actingoutpolitics.com to read about films by Godard, Resnais, Bergman, Pasolini, Cavani, Alain Tanner, Kurosawa, Bresson, Antonioni, Fassbinder, Herzog and Schlondorff (with analysis of shots) By Victor Enyutin
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