Alphaville Reviews

  • Jun 01, 2020

    I didn't expect to laugh so much! I didn't realize until after watching that the protagonist, Lemmy Caution, was a stock character in French B-grade detective movies of the time who played on European fascination and revulsion towards a certain American, cinematic «type». So, Godard was exaggerating and playing with the trope of Caution, who would be very familiar to his audience. Without knowing that, some of the absurdity of his role felt anachronistic and bizarre, but I have been rethinking since what the movie is doing. On a superficial level, this is a a version of the mid-century anxiety about totalitarian creep in all kinds of societies – regulated forms of capitalism and socialism. 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 are obvious parallels. I thought of Star Trek TOS too – the opposition between logic and emotion, what's right for the greater good vs. what feels right in the gut – as well a futuristic society that features more extreme objectification of women. The hotel clerk who comes in with a new Bible ... er, dictionary ... every day was a nice touch. Of course the broader themes of Alphaville are very much with us now, liberalism shading towards totalitarian control. The filmic anxiety about scientific dominance is striking, here, in the midst of the pandemic. Then, the «forms» of totalitarian control today look and feel almost nothing like this movie, which is prescient in one way, absurdly, unintentionally dated in others, and stripped down in a way that could feel symbolic or inappropriate. There's nothing at all here of the habitus we have come to associate with surveillance creep: no cameras or visible apparatus of control. Very few guards to watch this clearly suspicious outlander in Alphaville. One agent tries to kill Caution in his hotel room (but Caution shoots him, instead); a suspicious-looking fellow spies on a phone call, and Caution knifes him. There's no obvious accountability for this or swarm of police, leading to this strange, soupy feeling: are we in a police state or a hollowed out, futuristic, vaguely post-apocalyptic wild west? He goes where he pleases and only occasionally is yanked into a bureaucratic morass. Then it becomes clear that yes, he was sort of at least being watched the whole time. He is subjected to an interrogation which seems to be more of an absurd, existential effort at placing him within a psychological typology than an effort to extract information or confession. The computer is, of course, a great big room in the center of town and nowhere else. It turns out that the computer was using lines from Borges! I didn't catch it until reading about it later. Funny. And again, this makes me rethink what Godard was doing ... it makes it obvious that it is not meant to sound like a "real" or plausible interrogation.

    I didn't expect to laugh so much! I didn't realize until after watching that the protagonist, Lemmy Caution, was a stock character in French B-grade detective movies of the time who played on European fascination and revulsion towards a certain American, cinematic «type». So, Godard was exaggerating and playing with the trope of Caution, who would be very familiar to his audience. Without knowing that, some of the absurdity of his role felt anachronistic and bizarre, but I have been rethinking since what the movie is doing. On a superficial level, this is a a version of the mid-century anxiety about totalitarian creep in all kinds of societies – regulated forms of capitalism and socialism. 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 are obvious parallels. I thought of Star Trek TOS too – the opposition between logic and emotion, what's right for the greater good vs. what feels right in the gut – as well a futuristic society that features more extreme objectification of women. The hotel clerk who comes in with a new Bible ... er, dictionary ... every day was a nice touch. Of course the broader themes of Alphaville are very much with us now, liberalism shading towards totalitarian control. The filmic anxiety about scientific dominance is striking, here, in the midst of the pandemic. Then, the «forms» of totalitarian control today look and feel almost nothing like this movie, which is prescient in one way, absurdly, unintentionally dated in others, and stripped down in a way that could feel symbolic or inappropriate. There's nothing at all here of the habitus we have come to associate with surveillance creep: no cameras or visible apparatus of control. Very few guards to watch this clearly suspicious outlander in Alphaville. One agent tries to kill Caution in his hotel room (but Caution shoots him, instead); a suspicious-looking fellow spies on a phone call, and Caution knifes him. There's no obvious accountability for this or swarm of police, leading to this strange, soupy feeling: are we in a police state or a hollowed out, futuristic, vaguely post-apocalyptic wild west? He goes where he pleases and only occasionally is yanked into a bureaucratic morass. Then it becomes clear that yes, he was sort of at least being watched the whole time. He is subjected to an interrogation which seems to be more of an absurd, existential effort at placing him within a psychological typology than an effort to extract information or confession. The computer is, of course, a great big room in the center of town and nowhere else. It turns out that the computer was using lines from Borges! I didn't catch it until reading about it later. Funny. And again, this makes me rethink what Godard was doing ... it makes it obvious that it is not meant to sound like a "real" or plausible interrogation.

  • Mar 08, 2020

    This is a bizarre movie, both serious and playful, part dystopian science fiction, part noir crime adventure, and part romance. Halfway through I did think about Blade Runner, and I'm sure that in its day Alphaville was the subject of many earnest film classes and serious arguments at cocktail parties. More importantly for our generation, the film's premonition of a data-driven dystopian world is somehow becoming a reality and that alone makes it worth the watch.

    This is a bizarre movie, both serious and playful, part dystopian science fiction, part noir crime adventure, and part romance. Halfway through I did think about Blade Runner, and I'm sure that in its day Alphaville was the subject of many earnest film classes and serious arguments at cocktail parties. More importantly for our generation, the film's premonition of a data-driven dystopian world is somehow becoming a reality and that alone makes it worth the watch.

  • Feb 10, 2020

    Though conceptually well thought through, the movie is pretty much heavily structured and the cinematic language is rather demanding.

    Though conceptually well thought through, the movie is pretty much heavily structured and the cinematic language is rather demanding.

  • Nov 10, 2019

    Weird pretentious junk

    Weird pretentious junk

  • Aug 15, 2018

    Imagine a French mashup of Dick Tracy and Brave New World and you've got this film. And I don't mean that in a good way. There's nothing this film can tell you that Brave New World or 1984 couldn't tell you in a better and more meaningful way.

    Imagine a French mashup of Dick Tracy and Brave New World and you've got this film. And I don't mean that in a good way. There's nothing this film can tell you that Brave New World or 1984 couldn't tell you in a better and more meaningful way.

  • Aug 29, 2017

    The kindest that I can say is that it aged tremendously bad, and I stop here because it would be disrespectful to add anything.

    The kindest that I can say is that it aged tremendously bad, and I stop here because it would be disrespectful to add anything.

  • Jul 06, 2017

    A masterpiece. I wish I had the right words to describe my delight of this movie. Absolutely unique genre of sci-fi noir done with minimalist feel and yet very compelling and authentic. The voice of Alpha 60 is so hypnotic and memorable that it etches in your memory for a long time. Astounding and brilliant movie, makes you wonder how seemingly easy Godard created such convincing a universe.

    A masterpiece. I wish I had the right words to describe my delight of this movie. Absolutely unique genre of sci-fi noir done with minimalist feel and yet very compelling and authentic. The voice of Alpha 60 is so hypnotic and memorable that it etches in your memory for a long time. Astounding and brilliant movie, makes you wonder how seemingly easy Godard created such convincing a universe.

  • Apr 25, 2017

    This film is so unfulfilling in its story, so dull in atmosphere, and lame in script that the best I can give it is down the middle. Even with a limited budget Godard could have at least tried to make it feel like sci-fi, but no. He can't even make a good noir. There is okie-dokie satire and I don't mind the changing of tones but this film is just horribly uninteresting.

    This film is so unfulfilling in its story, so dull in atmosphere, and lame in script that the best I can give it is down the middle. Even with a limited budget Godard could have at least tried to make it feel like sci-fi, but no. He can't even make a good noir. There is okie-dokie satire and I don't mind the changing of tones but this film is just horribly uninteresting.

  • Feb 18, 2017

    I like the Film Noir aspects of this, and the dystopian idea of it...but I really had trouble staying into the film.

    I like the Film Noir aspects of this, and the dystopian idea of it...but I really had trouble staying into the film.

  • Avatar
    Joseph B Super Reviewer
    Apr 19, 2016

    Jean-Luc Godard's 1965 film "Alphaville" stars Eddie Constantine as Lemmy Caution, an American private eye sent to the city in space to destroy Alpha 60. Alpha 60 is a computer that rules the city and that has outlawed emotions, love and poetry. It's a science fiction noir that has the look and feel of Hollywood noir films, but ultimately, it's just a rough film to get into.

    Jean-Luc Godard's 1965 film "Alphaville" stars Eddie Constantine as Lemmy Caution, an American private eye sent to the city in space to destroy Alpha 60. Alpha 60 is a computer that rules the city and that has outlawed emotions, love and poetry. It's a science fiction noir that has the look and feel of Hollywood noir films, but ultimately, it's just a rough film to get into.