Cannes film fest poster freezes Godard’s Contempt

  • Gautaman Bhaskaran, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Mar 23, 2016 14:33 IST
Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 hit Contempt starred Piccoli and Brigitte Bardot. (Cannes Film Festival)

The Cannes Film Festival has unveiled its official poster, and it is seen as a significant departure from the past few years -- when the face of celebrity movie stars was used. One has seen the likes of Ingrid Bergman (Swedish star from classics like Casablanca and Notorious), Marcello Mastroianni (the Italian actor who stole hearts in La Dolce Vita) and Paul Newman (Hollywood handsome we saw in works like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Long, Hot Summer for which he won the Best Actor Palm at Cannes in 1958).

This year, the festival has used for its poster the re-mastered stills from Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 hit, Contempt (or Le Mepris in French). The visual in bright yellow shows the French actor-director, Michel Piccoli, climbing steps against the backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea. The steps have blood red borders and they are flanked by greenery, but the sea seems yellow, a shimmering yellow, perhaps reflecting the golder glow of the sun. The poster has been visualised by Herve Chigioni with the help of the graphic designer, Gilles Frappier.

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Contempt starred Piccoli and Brigitte Bardot. The film -- which centres on screenwriter Paul Javal’s marriage to Camille running into a storm during the making of a movie as she gets drawn to the producer -- is quite apt as the choice for the poster. Contempt is all about the process of a producing a film, and intricacies and intrigues involved.

Also the visual we see on the poster -- the steps, the sea, the horizon and a man’s accent towards his dream -- is reminiscent of a timeless quote used at the beginning of Contempt: “Cinema replaces our gaze with a world in harmony with our desire”. One may quip, tongue-in-cheek here, that modern-day desires are far from harmonious. Rather, they are acrimonious, to say the least.

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With Contempt, Godard reinvented the rules of the silver screen and championed a new kind of movie-making, based on cinematic mythology. And by choosing to represent itself under the symbol of this simultaneously palimpsest and unambiguous film, the festival is reiterating its founding commitment: to pay tribute to the history of cinema, and to welcome new ways of creating and seeing the medium.

Finally, a word about Piccoli. He has worked under just about every legendary auteur -- Jean Renoir, Claude Lelouch, Luis Bunuel, Costa Gavras, Agnes Varda, Alan Resnais and Theo Angelopoulos to name some.

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This writer remembers his magnificent performance in Nanni Moretti’s Italian work, We Have A Pope (2011), where he runs away from The Vatican the moment he is chosen as the Pontiff. Conveying emotional distress, a visibly nervous Piccoli roams the streets of Rome in a riveting drama that only the Italian great, Moretti, and the masterly Picolli can bring to pulsating life.

The festival runs from May 11 to 22, and the full lineup of movies will be announced in Paris on April 14.

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