Jean-Luc Godard on Casa Malaparte

May 3, 2011 § Leave a comment


At the end of Contempt (Le Mépris), Camille tells her husband, Paul, that she doesn’t love him anymore, that she’s changed her mind about him. Do you believe this happens because he eschews his idealism about art, truth, and beauty in order to pay the rent for the flat? Or is it a response to his love for her seeming too passive?


She finds him despicable because he is passive to his own nature, or what she conceives it to be. She believes he is a novelist, he is a playwright. To her, the cinema represents something contemptible, something steeped in money at the cost of truth. And when he allows her to ride in the convertible with Jeremy [Prokosch], it’s not just a denial of his devotion, but a denial of his own convictions..

The film is about the impossibility of remaining true to the nature of the self. Look at the setting in the final scenes. You have the natural beauty of Capri, the azure glow of the Mediterranean. Yet, the viewer cannot take their eyes off the Casa Malaparte, this beautiful seaside villa that is the embodiment of materialist wealth. How can Jack be expected to deny this? A man living in capitalist society can never be true to his own nature. He must descend down the steps to talk to Camille, only to tell him at the bottom that he is “not a real man.” She then jumps naked into the sea. She wants him to be that sea

Personally though, I believe Jack is, at the root of it all, a pure right-wing materialist, who collects women and glamour like playthings to feed his power. The way most men working in French cinema today are.


So in a sense, you wrote Jack as an autobiographical character.


What does that even mean? Are you calling me a fraud?


You said that every man is–


Yes, in one way or another, every film I make is autobiographical. Some of them seek to convey truths from my own experience, others borne from my perceptions of others in my life. This film, I’m afraid, is an example of the latter, Jack being the archetype of the insincere young filmmaker of the French New Wave. The movement is full of frauds. Their first films are honest, they are still guided by their passion for the cinema. But they get a glimpse of fame and their art becomes a means of acquiring more and more and more. They are all frauds.


Are you implicating me?


Yes, François. Your films will become nothing but reels collecting dust in the closet of some fetid old maid, lying there unused with amongst the decades-old couture sewn on the backs of the working poor. They are everything of fashion, nothing of essence. You are a bourgeois infant.


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