Alphaville (1965)

AKA Alphaville: une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (Alphaville: A Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution) Tarzan Vs IBM
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Starring: Eddie Constantine, Anna Karina, Akim Tamiroff, Howard Vernon..France. 1h 39m

Jean-Luc Godard, the King of the French New Wave lands this cryptic and incredibly iconic, sci fi noir story in the height of the movement, while on a wild run with actress and wife, Anna Kerina, the film was released around the time that the couple divorced but he continued to work with the stunner in Pierrot le Fou (1965) released in the same year.

Godard’s ceaseless innovation lead many into the realm of radical politics and extreme formal experimentation, but few could match his raw invention. Alphaville is one of his more approachable works and offers some inspiration for the dystopian futurescape of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, along with having strong parallels with John Boorman’s classic revenge flick, Point Blank (1967).

The classic film noir detective complete with a weathered visage and old fashioned tan raincoat, Lemmy Caution (Constantine) (agent 003) arrives in the new galaxy of Alphaville under the guise of a Journalist named Ivan Johnson, who works for the Figaro-Pravda., with a handfull of missions to complete, in the bleak modernist vision of Paris is captured by Nouvelle Vague cinematographer Raoul Coutard. Primarily he needs to confront a logic based computer governed reality to rescue someone called Werner Von Braun (Howard Vernon). Armed with a Colt Commander semi automatic and cheap Agfa Rapid 35mm Camera he traverses the city looking for his target and the Alpha 60 computer which has outlawed free thought, love, emotions and poetry within the city.

The society Lemmy has to deal with is very alien, everything is totally controlled by the Alpha 60 is very strange, Lemmy has entered the retro Matrix re programmed by George Orwell, no one is allowed to show emotion, and each room has a copy of the approved dictionary which is constantly updated removing words which aren’t allowed to be used as they might spark emotion. The Alpha 60’s voice can be heard everywhere, informing people that they shouldn’t ask why but say because, here is the Newspeak. There are various equations littered throughout the movie E-mc2 and E=hf along with other curious “codes”. Goddard shrewdly anticipated a future run by computers, a society drained of emotion, but while this is very Orwellian, the inspiration is much darker, within living memory of nazi occupation, there’s a hint that maybe modern society was going to fall into an opressed state much quicker after it’s liberation, What’s more disturbing is the fact that the residents all bear tattooed numbers and that Godard filmed in the Gestapo’s Parisian headquarters, the Hotel Continental.

For all of it’s deeper meanings, it’s still a vibrant chase, both literal and cerebral, the rain soaked Paris streets, and surreal encounters that would keep Cocteau and Kafka happy all blend together in a lavish and hard to forget spy thriller from the distant past forced into a complicated future and it’s marvelous.

Rating: 8/10

R: Point Blank (1967), Germany Year 90 Nine Zero (1991), Pierrot le Fou (1965) Joy of Learning (1969)
L: French New Wave
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