Mépris, Le Blu-ray Review
PictureLe Mepris comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p High Definition rendition in the movie's original 1963 theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. After 46 years, it is unsurprising that any movie looks this flawed, and no amount of digital tinkering will ever solve all the issues, but this is still probably the definitive visual representation of the movie - even after Criterion's polished-up SD DVD release. Detail is reasonable at best, the extensive processing done here is masked quite well though, with little obvious edge enhancement. Noise is a big problem, irrespective of the amount of leeway you give this kind of 'classic', it is apparent almost throughout, and quite intrusive in some interior segments. Close-ups are quite good, and they've done well to polish up Bardot's ass for the lingering shots. It is much more debatable as to whether or not the representation of the colour scheme is any good. I have read plenty about Godard's experimentation with film stock, and the resulting effect may have been that the picture was always likely to have moments of heavy noise, and variable colour tones, but from the point of view of any novice viewer unaware of this - this is just a dated, bland looking palette. It has all the gorgeous locations to play with, but everything seems too faded and dour despite the sun-drenched setting. A few scenes offers us slightly stronger colours - deep reds and blues - but they never seem quite as vibrant as they should be. As I've stated, there were inherent production issues that you have to take into account (i.e. the it's not the transfer's fault, the film always looked this way argument) and the film is nearly half a Century old, so what did you really expect? But there's no point in calling it a beautiful rendition, when actually it's just a reasonably good presentation of a very old, dated and damaged movie.
SoundThe movie gets the full High Definition treatment with this new release, and the original French-language soundtrack has been upgraded to a DTS-HD Master Audio rendition, but there are still obvious limitations with the material which I just don't need to go over again. The dialogue - in the multiple languages - comes across reasonably clearly from the frontal array. Hell, everything on this track comes from across the frontal array as it may be DTS - but it's still only 2-channel. It is definitely a tinny, lacklustre mix, with few discernable effects - atmospheric or otherwise - other than just that picked up on-set, and a score which is positively nauseating. Again, many probably rave about Delerue's score here, but the reality is that he just plays the same irritating theme tune throughout, and it just gets repetitive, monotonous and downright irritating before you even reach the halfway mark. Technically, this may be the best aural rendition of the film ever release, but that does not really amount to a great deal when the original soundtrack itself is so dated and limited.
ExtrasOptimum's new 'special edition' of Le Mepris has some of the previously sourced extra material, that adorned the earlier Criterion release, as well as some new stuff. We get a 5-minute Introduction by Colin MacCabe, as well as a new Documentary Once Upon a Time There Was... Contempt, which runs at nearly an hour in length, and includes segments taken from many of the extras that are missing from this release, and splices in some new stuff, including an extensive new Interview with the Director Godard himself. The thirty minute Contempt...Tenderly looks explicitly at the original script when compared to the Director's vision (one should be able to guess the way this Documentary goes from watching the film itself).
The 1963 Documentary The Dinosaur and The Baby runs at an hour long and will be familiar to fans of the movie who have picked up previous releases. It is basically just one long dialogue between the Director Godard and fellow Director (who plays himself in the movie) Fritz Lang, who discuss making movies, the business itself, and techniques employed on Le Mepris. The 15 minute Conversation with Fritz Lang is a 1963 on-set Interview with the man, and we round out the disc with the Trailer.
VerdictLe Mepris is a pretentious mess. It is pseudo-intellectual and totally inaccessible, and it continues to be lauded as a classic more out of habit - I suspect - than out of any real value. Tediously self-indulgent, and unsurprisingly so since it is semi-autobiographical, few people - even in Godard's own generation - will still be able to find anything worth watching in this mess. Even French icon Bridget Bardot's perfect ass can't save it. Newly released on Region Free UK Blu-ray as part of the new Optimum / Studio Canal Collection, we get acceptable if unspectacular video and audio - you have to consider the age - as well as a wealth of comprehensive extras. It's a shame that the movie really isn't worth your time, however. I'm sure there are plenty out there who disagree, and sing the praises of this complex, multi-layered satire on the very movie-making industry itself, but honestly, it is all a little pretentious isn't it? It may go down in the history books for its daring concepts, but that's all history now - and it just does not stand up as a very watchable film. Disappointing.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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