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Lost Sounds and Soundtracks. The Other "Contempt"

The shocking reveal of an alternate score to Godard's _Contempt_, one for the Italian release, done by the prolific Piero Piccioni.

Like many right-thinking people the world over, we here at Notebook have a documented fondness for Georges Delerue's score for Contempt.

But here's a little-known fact: the dubbed Italian and Spanish release of Contempt did not feature Delerue's score, but instead a completely different soundtrack by the prolific Piero Piccioni. Whereas Delerue's score consists of a handful of repeated themes (like most of the original soundtracks for Godard's 1960s films, it's very brief, amounting to about 10 minutes of music), Piccioni recorded a full-length score of the film.

I know of no version of Contempt currently circulating—whether official or bootleg—that includes this version of the soundtrack, though it's pretty easy to imagine the film being radically altered or re-focused by the inclusion of Piccioni's music. While his music for the main titles is essentially a romantic theme, much of Piccioni's score consists of cocktail jazz, occasionally dissonant. Delerue's score reinforces the basically tragic themes invisible to the characters—it is a score written chiefly for the characters played by Michel Piccoli and Fritz Lang, and for Piccoli's relationship to the Bardot character (if not for the character herself)—while Piccioni's plays off of the stylish world they are forced inhabit—that is, music for Jack Palance's character and his convertible.

(1) Main Titles


(2) Divertissement


(3) Waves Out of the Moon


(4) Organ Mood


(5) Memories


—From "Il Disprezzo" (Digitmovies, 2003)


Music can be one of cinema's great pleasures. When used with inspiration—not dictating our viewing experience with a death grip or slathered like bad wallpaper over the rest of a sound mix—it can transform either solitary shots or spliced sequences of moving images into entirely new expressions, galvanizing details within the raw cinematographic material or contrapuntally complicating the initial impressions of the image.

Given our love for movie music in all its forms, whether a soundtrack features original orchestral compositions, near-abstract soundscapes, or acts as a curatorial force for collecting, exposing and (re-) contextualizing existent music, Lost Sounds and Soundtracks will serve to highlight some of our favorites, obscure and not so obscure, commercially available and ripped directly from audio-tracks where necessary. Unless analyzed within their original context, all will be divorced from their image-tracks in hopes that we might briefly give them their singular due.

Sacrilege… Contempt score is one of the most powerful and evocative ever. Interesting that the tracks are available. They’re much more conventional than Delerue’s score (or Godard’s use of it). Could see them used ironically in an Antonioni film…
There’s an Czech-based comapny that published The Contempt DVD with the Italian dubbing. I bought it for the curiosity sake, though I never saw it by now, so I didn’t notice the difference in the soundtracks. So now it’s time to check it maybe. Anyway, Delerue’s Theme de Camille is just wonderful to me…
I can’t and don’t want to imagine the film with this soundtrack. Main title is very nice and it actually inspires me to write a novel to be based on it.
Ignatiy, where did you get that information about a Spanish-dubbed release of “Le Mépris”?. Not that I would have dared to suffer such monstrosity, but the film was never shown in Spain until the ‘70s or ’80s, and I’m almost wholly sure it was only distributed in VO with subtitles, and certainly with the Delerue score (probably, together with "Vertigo"’s, my favorite film music), not with the Piccioni score which Godard disowened as well as everything else (including the color and the editing, and of course the dubbing of a multilingual soundtrack) in the Italian release version (I remember an interview in “Film Ideal” in 1963 where he rejected everything about the Italian “Il disprezzo”). Maybe it was dubbed for TV, or some TV channel bought the Italian version, but I had never heard about it.
Miguel, I’ve seen the Piccioni score referred to several times as having been recorded “for the Italian and Spanish release” — though, now that I think about it, that doesn’t mean it was actually used for the Spanish release. Thanks — I’ll amend it accordingly. What was different about the color in the Italian version? I heard that during the filming, they had to bring in film stock from elsewhere because when they had it printed in Rome, the film looked terrible…

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