Godard’s <i>Contempt</i> is A Cool Flickering Ghost


courtesy of the Criterion Collection

film snots ... In light of all the ass kissing that’s about to rain down on S.F. once 7x7’s Best Of season kicks off, let me be the first to offer a preemptive pucker. Who do you know that's an authority on San Francisco history? I mean the small stuff, people you never heard of in the gay old bohemian days of gay old San Francisco? Juicy stories, like who shot who in the Embarcadero, August, 1879 …*

Best Old Coot - Pop Liebel (Argosy Books, 350 Kearny)
If you ask the Alfred Hitchcock 5000, a robotic “spotted dick-eating” prototype I’m working on with a few smoky burnouts over at Lucas Arts, it’s the chain-smoking dyspeptic Pop Leibel of the famed Argosy Book Shop. Hipsters should check out his store, Pop definitely has that Olivier in Marathon Man look going but don’t let his Austrian Stankeye give you the creeps, even though he was featured in the Hitchcock thriller Vertigo and probably is an x-Nazi who may murder you at any moment. 

His wheezing presence merely adds to the cinematic lore and he always has a hot tip for cinephiles. Last week it was “is it safe?” * This week it’s “you’re standing on my oxygen hose.” I can’t believe this place isn’t on more walking tours! Says here, Hitch once quipped, “Now this is what a book store should look like ...” Indeed original Fat Man in a Little Coat.*  If only the Alfie 5000 could one day be so wise …

A Lil’ Bit Film School, A Lil’ Bit Rock n' Roll
courtesy of the Criterion Collection

The moment Hitch laid eyes on Pop, he knew he was destined to make Vertigo, the coolest movie ever made (according to Cahiers du Cinema). The moment I laid eyes on Argosy Books, I knew I’d be breaking in at midnight to test drive Pop’s antique Ouija board that used to belong to Jean-Luc Godard. I’m so hooked on Ouija boards right now film nerds, especially famous ones. Go ahead, laugh it up, but I couldn’t resist, these things are a goldmine of information. I’m breaking the law.

For those who think I’m some pretentious whacked out poozer who’s all into breaking into famous bookstores and Ouija-ing esoteric French directors who aren’t technically dead—well, you’re right but here’s the deal: I am obsessed with Jean-Luc Godard, okay, there I said it. Am I too film school? Am I no longer cool? Well tough merde.

Contempt at the Castro
courtesy of the Criterion Collection

All I’m saying is the French New Wave’s former resident poet-critic was totally cool like 40 years ago, why is it so bloody passé to like him now? Most of you ET loving Spielberg heads probably think “a Godard” is a piece of modern sculpture or a kitchen appliance, not so callow children, not so … 

Those still in the known’t, should (natch) try Contempt (aka Le Mépris) on for size at the Castro May 9-15. The sixth movie Jean-Luc God made during one of the greatest auteur runs of all time (from 1959 to 1967), Contempt is his only attempt at a big Hollywood production that begs the eternal question: how much soul can one screenwriter sell and still remain true? Um, er, I’ll get back to you on that. Meanwhile enjoy Godard’s delicious big budget extravaganza. It’s like a French New Wave version of Indecent Proposal meets The Player that’s chock full of nude writhings (by sex kitten Brigitte Bardot) and cool musings about whether art or love is possible in a corrupt world.The answer to all that is uh, no …

God Awaits the End of Cinema with Optimism
courtesy of the Criterion Collection

And so it was, cinema is art, cinema is history and cinema is only a dream after all … Poseurs are ordered by Ouija Godard and Pop Liebel to get on down to the Castro to enjoy Contempt as a giant slice of ’60s pop cinema (and nothing more)—or not and stay so dead to me. Until next week, this is MRF signing off.  Keep kissing ass America, be bad and get into trouble baby…*

Essential Godard Picks to Click
•    Masculine Feminine (1966)
•    Alphaville (1965)
•    Band of Outsiders (1964)
•    Breathless (1960)
•    Week End (1967)

Volume 61 Footnotes
•    “Greetings and salutations.” – Heathers (1991): Christian Slater doing his best Nicholson impersonation to a monacle-lovin’ Winona Ryder. 
•       “Who do you know that's an authority on San Francisco history?  I mean the small stuff, people you never heard of in the gay old bohemian days of gay old San Francisco?  Juicy stories, like who shot who in the Embarcadero, August, 1879." - Vertigo (1958): Jimmy Stewart's sick obsession leads to Pop Liebel's downtown lair.
•    “Is it safe?” – The Marathon Man (1976): Sadistic Nazi dentist (Olivier) touches a nerve with health nut Dusty Hoffman.
•    “Let’s get into trouble baby.” – Tapeheads (1988): Soul Train host Don Cornelius (as Hollywood Producer Mo Fuzz) breaks it down to upstart filmmakers Tim Robbins and John Cusack

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