The story here is simple, but with Godard it's rarely just about story (in fact, one of the reason viewers find his later films so difficult is that they are seldom about story at all). Piccoli plays a struggling writer who is approached by producer Jack Palance to rewrite a script that is being filmed by the famed director Fritz Lang, who plays himself. Palance is everything that is wrong with American cinema: he wants sex, sex, sex, and he doesn't care about art or symbolism. All he cares about is butts in seats. Piccoli is madly in love with his wife, played by the immortal Brigitte Bardot, and she with him. However, his vaccillating over taking the job, and a misunderstanding surrounding a cab ride, leads her to wrongly infer that he might be willing to trade her for success. Namely, she thinks he is offering her to Palance, who, among his other failings, is a lecher who knows that he can get away with it because he holds the checkbook. As a three-day timespan goes by, Bardot tests Piccoli, and he fails again and again because he cannot find it in himself to make any decisions at all. She decides that she no longer loves him, basically because he's not the man she thought she married.
In the midst of the lover's quarrel is what Godard is really getting at. The film is about his struggles with fame and the idea of selling out. Piccoli's self-questioning is Godard's. In the film, the "prize" is Bardot, while in Godard's own life, it was his dedication to his ideals. In real life, Godard won his battle with his conscience. Piccoli doesn't have the same luck.
One doesn't necessarily expect beautiful films from Godard, but this is surely one, only somewhat because much of the time is spent with the camera lingering on the beautiful Bardot. I don't know if Godard was just seeing what he could get away with, or if he was making a subtle joke about American films, but he spends an inordinate amount of time scanning over Bardot's nude body with the camera. This was most certainly daring in 1964, but it works as well today. The film also features very strict use of color, especially the colors red and yellow (this from the director who, when accused of having a lot of blood in his films, replied that he actually had a lot of red in his films).
Out of the three Godard films I have seen (Alphaville, First Name: Carmen, and this one), this is my favorite. I still have to see his classics of the New Wave, like Breathless and Band of Outsiders.
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