Anna Karina Talks Bardot and Inspiring Jean-Luc Godard

Pin It

The New Wave icon muses on her former lover Godard's seminal film, Le Mépris

“I was in many of Jean-Luc’s movies, but I wasn’t in Le Mépris. I think that he [Godard] really wanted to do a film with Brigitte Bardot [laughs], and, of course, I can understand that! Originally the film’s producers Carlo Ponti and Georges de Beauregard wanted Monica Vitti for the part, and Jean-Luc travelled to Rome to ask her, but she wasn’t really into it. Anyway, Bardot was the most beautiful woman in the world at that time and so it seemed perfect for her to play Camille [Javal – the female lead] in the movie. The first scene, where she’s completely naked, I don’t actually think he really wanted to open the film like that, but every movie has to have a little sexy in it otherwise who is going to go and see it [laughs]? And so, he created the dialogue with the two of them on the bed, talking about her body – you know the one, ‘mes yeux, mes derrière’ it was an extraordinary beginning. There are elements of my relationship with him [Godard] throughout the movie. He created a scene in the bathroom where Bardot was upset and angry and uses lots of very bad words, she screams ‘merde, merde’ – and, well, I used to do that when I was a little bit angry with him too – not aggressive, it was all quite playful really.” – Anna Karina

Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mépris [Contempt] – a superlative adaptation of Alberto Moravia’s novel, A Ghost at Noon – is a wry, experimental beacon of French New Wave cinema. At the heart of the movie lies the unravelling of a tumultuous relationship between the enviably pneumatic Brigitte Bardot [Camille Javal] and Michel Picolli [Paul Javal] – which, at the time, drew visible parallels to Godard’s off-screen relationship with his muse and long-time lover, Anna Karina. While Le Mépris is considered to be the opus in Godard’s cinematic oeuvre, he frequently shrugged off its acclaim, dismissing it as “no so much of a success” [sic]. The movie plays out in all of its exquisitely shot, technicolour glory at the BFI, London as part of its dedicated Godard season. 

Jean-Luc Godard season runs from January 28 until March 14, 2016 at BFI London.