Le Mépris (Contempt) | 1963
Scriptwriter Paul Javal (Michel Piccoli) is attempting a commercial adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey for the screen, as his marriage to Camille (Brigitte Bardot) falls apart, a situation not helped by vulgarian Hollywood producer and playboy Jeremy Prokosch (Jack Palance). Veteran Fritz Lang (as himself) plays the director.
The radical nouvelle vague director’s only feature made with a major commercial company, he was obliged to film in CinemaScope and include gratuitous ‘arty’ butt shots of star Bardot. Given the film’s themes, it’s hard to believe these compromises came as a surprise to the canny director. With Godard himself playing the Assistant director and cinematographer Raoul Coutard as the Cinematographer, it’s perhaps best seen as a piece of performance art.
The real star of the film turns out to be Prokosch’s stunning home, Casa Malaparte, perched on the rocky spur of Punta Masullo, perched 32 metres above the sea on the eastern side of the island of Capri. Overlooking the Gulf of Salerno, the house is visible from the Pizzolungo coastal path.
The extraordinary modernistic building was designed between 1937 and 1942 by Rationalist architect Adalberto Libera, not without substantial input from its owner, the writer Curzio Malaparte.
After Malaparte’s death in 1957, the house fell into serious disrepair from both natural wear and deliberate vandalism. Now owned by the Giorgio Ronchi Foundation, an institution for the promotion of culture and science, it was renovated in the Eighties and Nineties but remains closed to the general public.
Capri itself is an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the Sorrentine Peninsula, on the south side of the Gulf of Naples in the Campania region of Italy. It’s been a resort since Roman times – the emperor Augustus developed the island as a resort while his successor, Tiberius, upped sticks from Rome and lived here.