Alphaville, A Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution (1965)

Alphaville, A Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution (1965)

“I see: people have become slaves to probability.”

Synopsis:
A secret agent posing as a reporter known as “Lemmy Caution” (Eddie Constantine) arrives on the planet of Alphaville hoping to find a missing colleague (Akim Tamiroff), discover the planet’s creator (Howard Vernon), and destroy its sentient supercomputer; once there, he falls in love with Vernon’s daughter (Anna Karina) and attempts to teach her the concepts of love and conscience.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Akim Tamiroff Films
  • Dystopia
  • French Films
  • Jean-Luc Godard Films
  • Journalists
  • Science Fiction

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary writes, in this “amusing” film, Jean-Luc Godard “blends popular lowbrow entertainment — comic books, pulp fiction, ‘B’ detective movies, James Bond, and sci-fi — with political satire,” filming the entire futuristic flick (set in “intersidereal space”) in “undisguised modern office buildings and large tourist and small seedy hotels in Paris.”

He describes Alphaville as a “computer-run, robotized society where technology has replaced humanity”:

… “where there is repression/murder of all who don’t think logically”:

… “whose women, like the leader’s daughter, Natasha (Anna Karina), have numbers tattooed on their backs”:

… “and function as first-, second-, or third-class prostitutes/seducers; where words such as ‘conscience’ and ‘love’ do not exist in its Bible-dictionary.” He points out that “picture has the novel twist of having a two-fisted tough guy teaching a sensual female the meaning of ‘love'”:

… and he notes that while “the political themes aren’t that novel,” “Godard’s direction is consistently offbeat and fascinating.” For instance, he notes that Godard’s “use of flickering lights (including those from Lemmy’s camera), sounds (including a monstrous male voice on a loud-speaker), ominous suspense music, choice settings…, and sudden, unexpected actions by characters… makes us feel we’re in another world whose look and rhythm are different from our own.”

He posits that while the “film isn’t altogether successful,” it “has moments of brilliance” and features “exceptional cinematography by Raoul Coutard.” He also notes that “the casting of ‘B’-movie actor Constantine was inspired”:

… and points out that Akim Tamaroff, playing “a corrupted ex-agent,” looks “like his co-star in Touch of Evil, Orson Welles.”

I’m essentially in agreement with Peary’ assessment of this unexpectedly provocative, typically low-budget Godard film — one in which, as DVD Savant puts it, “what we see and what we hear are at constant odds with one another”. There are enough interesting ideas explored here, in visually creative ways, that it’s easy to stay engaged; and film fanatics will surely take note of how closely some aspects of this film — particularly the end — resemble (and perhaps inspired) Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982).

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Raoul Coutard’s cinematography
  • A provocative script:

    “No one has ever lived in the past; no one will ever live in the future. The present is the form of all life.”
    “We are unique. Wretchedly unique.”
    “You shouldn’t call this dump Alphaville; it’s Zeroville.”
    “The present is terrifying because it is irreversible.”

Must See?
Yes, as a cult favorite.

Categories

  • Cult Movie
  • Important Director

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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