From a New York Times review on the 45th anniversary of the film. By Terrence Rafferty.
The greatness of “Contempt” is that Mr. Godard is not, finally, nostalgic for the Homeric harmony Lang speaks of. He knows that ship has sailed. In this picture everything, ancient or modern, “real” or “unreal,” has its own stunned dignity, and the movie wants us to see it all as beautiful — as its people, tragically, cannot. Even early ’60s furniture. “Contempt” is about men and women rendered graceless by their times, but the movie, substituting rigorous aesthetics for the novel’s psychology, shows us where they (and we) went wrong and achieves an extraordinary grace. (The crisp natural-light cinematography, by Raoul Coutard, and Georges Delerue’s mournful score have something to do with this too.)