Made in 1963, Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mépris is a sublime widescreen drama about the breakdown of a marriage during a film shoot in Italy. Starring Michel Piccoli and Brigitte Bardot, it’s long been a favourite of filmmakers, from Martin Scorsese to Richard Ayoade. With the film currently showing in cinemas across the UK, we dropped a line to 12 Years a Slave Oscar winner Steve McQueen (who counts Le Mépris in his all-time top 10) and The Duke of Burgundy director Peter Strickland to ask them what makes this film so special.
“The first thing that hit me with Le Mépris is the music by Georges Delerue and the spoken opening credits sequence. On first viewing it took my breath away. There’s a wonderful bluesiness about the film – the slow breaking up of a marriage within the context of the making of a movie. Michel Piccoli, Jack Palance, Brigitte Bardot, and Fritz Lang – four cults of their time – transform the somewhat simplistic story into something quite profound. For me, Godard has never been better, and I carry the soundtrack in my head.”
“Le Mépris is a final attempt to resuscitate an autumnal relationship framed by the currency of mythology and cinema. Love’s last embers are stoked by Georges Delerue’s yearning score, which wraps itself around the film like a noose. It also has one of my favourite lines: ‘Get out of shot, Ulysses.’”
Watch the trailer for Le Mépris (1963)