Monday, August 9, 2010


I don’t know why I didn’t realize Jean-Luc Godard had made a sci-fi while the French New Wave was going on, but somehow they skipped over Alphaville when I was in film school, and I’m very sad they did. I do believe that Alphaville is one of those films that I would have a much greater understanding of if I knew more about the cultural climate of the time, or could actually understand the language.

Alphaville is to French science fiction, what 1984 was to literature. It paints a bleak story of a society that has let itself be overrun by a dominating power. In the case of Alphaville that’s a professor who seized control when he was exiled from another land and a computer system he implemented called Alpha 60. In this tale secret agent Lemmy Caution has been sent into Alphaville to assess the situation and take out the professor. Even though this sounds like a pretty straight-forward science fiction tale to anyone with knowledge of the genre, you have to remember to put this through the filter of Jean-Luc Godard which very simply means, this is anything but straight-forward and part of the reason I feel like I am missing a lot of the relevance by not knowing or being a part of the culture.

The one thing I can say that translates no matter what culture or time you are a part of are the visuals. Perhaps I have a tendency to like stark & sparse black and white, but I found Alphaville to be visually stunning. Sure sometimes what the characters were doing was a little wonky, and staring into the camera would never fly in an American studio film, but Godard is a master of story, concept and movement and all of that translates into a beautiful tale unlike any American science fiction film you’re likely to see – especially anything from the 1960’s before Kubrick came into play.

Alphaville is a film that must be experienced through to the end, because until the third act you’re not quite sure what’s going on in this strange world. All I could think while watching is a former pastor of mine that while he was talking on difficult concepts would always tell us to just go with it because “relevance is coming” and that is quite true for Alphaville; by the end of the film relevance has come in a very beautiful conclusion and Godard proves again that he had an imagination like no one else.

Director & Writer: Jean-Luc Godard
Lemmy Caution: Eddie Constantine
Natacha von Braun: Anna Karina

Alpha 60: Once we know the number one, we believe that we know the number two, because one plus one equals two. We forget that first we must know the meaning of plus.

No comments: