WATCHING THIS DISC carried me back to grad school, not because I hadn't seen Jean-Luc Godard's 1963 classic of marital discord plenty of times before, but because my old N.Y.U. prof, Brad Stam, does the commentary track. "The film concerns the problems of filmmaking and the problems of a couple," he intones. Right. Ever the dutiful student, I again found myself scribbling down his words. Watching screenwriter Michel Piccoli gradually alienate his wife, Brigitte Bardot, fatally driving her into the arms and Alfa of producer Jack Palance, you wish those three—to say nothing of JLG himself—could've been strong-armed into additional commentaries. In a few more years, they'll be gone.
Fortunately, Criterion has done its usual excellent job with this two-disc set: The Technicolor colors are eye-poppingly bright; subtitles are newly translated; the soundtrack is crisp. Raoul Coutard's CinemaScope photography is respected with letterboxing, and he's also represented in the extras with a nice little interview.
Among other extras, two are like making-of featurettes before their time—one detailing the paparazzi who besieged the company while shooting on Capri; the second documenting the crew off-camera. (What fashion sense Godard had with his shades, hat, fitted slacks, and blazer worn over a sweatshirt! And I love how various crew members carried tiny barefoot B.B. around the set.) In a 1964 TV interview, Godard observes, "Critics are always bitter and sad," yet he also seems to respect those in his former profession. In his hour-long Q&A with Fritz Lang (who plays the director in Contempt), he's less revealing—if you could ever call the guy revealing. When Lang says, "I believe I'm a romantic and you're one as well," Godard bristles, insisting the term not be confused with "sentimental." No danger there.
FEW DISCS DEBUT at this time of the year. Criterion has also reissued Monterey Pop, which documents the 1967 concert with four and one-half hours of performances on three discs. Ice Cube's warm comedy Barbershop is out Jan. 1 (with a sequel already planned); alas, Cedric the Entertainer is not on the commentary track. Certain indie fans will appreciate Double Whammy (Dec. 31) by Living in Oblivion director Tom DiCillo, starring Denis Leary, Elizabeth Hurley, Steve Buscemi, and Luis Guzmᮮ