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First and foremost a spoof.
FilmSnobby29 September 2003
Lemmy Caution, a French version of Sam Spade -- or perhaps a James Bond gone to seed -- is on a mission: "liquidate" the tyrannical Dr. Vonbraun, inventor of the "death ray" and the Orwellian supercomputer, Alpha 60. But to get Vonbraun, Lemmy must make the intergalactic voyage from his home in the Outlands (roughly, "Nueva York") to Alphaville (roughly, mid-Sixties Paris). He gets there via his Ford Galaxy. That's right -- a car. Are you with me so far?

The key to understanding Jean-Luc Godard's *Alphaville* is to realize that it is first and foremost a spoof. It spoofs nearly everything it touches: science fiction; comic-books; George Orwell; Aldous Huxley; American private-eye movies; spy movies; technology in general and computers in particular; romantic love as presented in cinema. If you sit down to watch this expecting a high-minded piece of French New Wave cinema, you're going to end up being put-off. Those familiar with Godard will perhaps be less put-off. After all, when was this guy ever really "high-minded", anyway? Godard was the prankster of the "Cahiers du Cinema" gang. Just listen to the score by Paul Misraki if you're looking for the tongue in the cheek. Even the putative theme of the movie, which is the priority of "love" and artistic creativity over logic and technology personified by the talking Alpha 60 supercomputer, is not taken too seriously. "Love" is personified by the beautiful dingbat princess, Natasha Vonbraun (Anna Karina), who doesn't even know what the word means. She's a child, as easily manipulated by Lemmy Caution as she is by the technocrats of Alphaville. Therefore, our rooting interest for humanity resides in Lemmy. Eddie Constantine reprises the role of Caution, a popular TV character in France during the Fifties, for Godard here: Lord knows what Constantine thought when he first read the script. The way he delivers the line, "This 'Alphaville' ought to be called 'Zeroville!'" gives a forceful indication of his bemusement. He submits to Godard's nouvelle vagueisms like a good soldier, delivering a fantastic performance in the process. Raoul Coutard's cinematography captures the heartlessness of the architecture in mid-Sixties Paris, which seemed to consist of blocky buildings blaring florescent lighting from every window, claustrophobic corridors, run-down apartments, and endless spiral staircases. It's a pitiless place, which perhaps was Godard's one serious statement amidst all the postmodern, meta-cinematic foolery: we're living in Alphaville already.

Altogether, this is Godard's most satisfying film. Despite all its detractors, *Alphaville* still survives (in a Criterion edition, no less). Classics always do.
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Weirder and weirder...
jameswtravers24 June 2000
If one had to use just one word to sum up Alphaville¸that word would have to be weird. It is a film that constantly challenges our preconceptions, our expectations, and, as a result, manages to be both deeply disturbing and very funny at the same time.

The film begins as what appears to be a pastiche of the American detective movie of the 1950s, but then suddenly takes a dive into the Twilight Zone. What follows is a perplexing 100 minutes of cinema that manages to be classic film noir, imaginative science-fiction, an action-packed and suspenseful thriller and - most surprisingly of all - a very entertaining black comedy, in the mould of Dr Strangeglove. By trying to blend so many contrasting elements, the result could have easily been a disaster. That the films succeeds, and succeeds admirably, is down largely to two factors.

Firstly, Eddy Constantine plays the part of Lemmy Caution, the private detective, throughout with total conviction, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he is playing a complete parody (and a very funny one) of a character he had made his own in the preceding decade. In the 1950s, Constantine played the hard-nosed detective in a series of French films of the traditional American detective genre. It would have been very easy for a lesser actor to ham the part up or downplay the character, but Constantine does neither, and the result is utterly brilliant.

We have a familiar character transposed from a familiar milieu into a parallel universe, where everything appears to be superficially familiar but then is shown to be a distortion of what we see in our own world - a kind of Humphrey Bogart through the Looking Glass. Over and over again, we are surprised at how easily we are tripped up and misled by our own preconceptions. This would not have been possible without a strong central character who is firmly anchored in our world - and Eddy Constantine serves this purpose brilliantly. The fact that he works so well with his co-star, the superb and very stylish Anna Karina, is a bonus.

Secondly, Alphaville's creator, Godard, appears to be at the height of his powers as a director. He shows complete mastery of the revolutionary cinematographic techniques which he thrust onto an unsuspecting world in the early years of the New Wave (the late 1950s). Far more accessible than some of Godard's contemporary films (such as La Chinoise and Weekend), the style is nonetheless distinctive and fresh, somehow giving the film an extra dimension that constantly surprises and entertains. Godard is also responsible for the script, an adaptation of a novel by Peter Cheyney, where he manages, quite cleverly, to draw parallels between the futuristic soulless society of Alphaville and contemporary France. (There are more than a few direct statements to suggest that Godard regards his own country as Alphaville - for example the infamous HLM joke. Godard appears to see France ending up as an isolationist state, seeming to have imperialistic ambitions, with its language under strict state control - not an uncommon caricature of the country in the latter years of the 20th century.)

Popular concerns about the impact of computer technology on society are also exploited by Godard who suggests that widespread dehumanisation and total state control will be the outcome.

Paul Misraki's enigmatic background music adds to the eerie other-wordly atmosphere of the ensemble.

Overall, an amazing film that never ceases to surprise and shock. A dark and very frightening thriller, a comic pastiche of detective films, a love story, a sci-fi movie with a power-mad (and asthmatic) computer... how Godard managed to pull this one off is probably one of the great mysteries of cinema history. Watch, listen, laugh and be amazed.
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Minimalism is not a crime
doomvox22 September 2004
Alphaville is an attack on the syndrome of Science Fiction films full of flash and color but devoid of ideas. They intentionally took an "Our Town" attitude toward special effects -- e.g. driving along in a car, with dialog indicating that they're in a spaceship; commenting on how beautiful the stars look when you can't see anything but the glare of streetlights, and so on. If there's a problem with this movie, it's that the ideas themselves are perhaps not really all that strong; the notion of a dystopian city ruled by an all powerful computer just doesn't seem that heavy, not even taken as some sort of symbolic allegory; but on the whole I think SF cinema would be in much better shape if it had learned the lesson of Alphaville (think "La Jette"). Minimalism is not a crime, which is why I find it very annoying that I need to babble for another couple of lines to convince that I've said enough to be worth logging as a movie review.
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A very "challenging" film
supernma7 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Being my third Godard film, I was very excited to delve into this one, as I had liked the previous two I had seen (Breathless, and A Woman is A Woman). After all, the idea of combining Godard's French New Wave style with science fiction is very compelling. I had also read nothing about the plot or theme of the film beforehand, so it was a truly raw experience. That being said, I am very disappointed.

I rarely call a film boring, because that's too easy of a response and usually not the case for most films. Nonetheless, "Alphaville" bored me. I didn't connect to the story or any of the characters, and was lost most of the time. The style was cool, but that's about all I found interesting about the film. Also, the voice of Alpha 60 is like nails-on-a-chalk-board; I was literally pulling on my hair when it gave those long monologues.

I don't want to give the wrong impression, though. I can see how it influenced future sci-fi cinema (i.e. Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey), and it's a strikingly unique and original (albeit unconventional) piece, but it simply failed to engage me as a viewer. Whether or not this was Godard's intention, I don't know. Watch it only if you have a great passion for cinema and film history. All casual moviegoers beware.
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My brief review of the film
sol-27 April 2005
An excessively weird although constantly engaging futuristic film, there is plenty to enjoy in it, even though it is a bit hard to understand. Godard makes brilliant use of shadows and lighting to set up a scary atmosphere, and negative images are used effectively throughout to create a sense of awe and provide a feeling of a foreign environment. The sets are very creative, taken from existing buildings in France, and the music used throughout the film fits in delightfully. At times the film bears a bit too much resemblance to Orwell's '1984' to stand on its own two feet, and there might be a few other problems for the nit-picky, but I simply found this to be a fascinating and well made film, and it definitely comes recommended if you simply feel like watching something different for a change.
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Une étrange aventure indeed
LeRoyMarko20 November 2002
I really like Alphaville. But I can understand why some would find it uninspiring or even boring. A Sci-Fi with no special effect. An intellectual feast in black and white. A movie that probably appealed to the crowd of the Quartier Latin. The story of a techno society. A society where people are killed if they act in an illogical way (ex. express sentiments). The episode of the pool is particularly good. The movie goes between two paradox: technology and poetry. But eventually, victory will prevail in the form of a «je vous aime».

Great lines in this one: «Dans la vie, il n'y a que le présent. Personne n'a vécu dans le passé et personne ne vivra dans le futur». Or this question by Alpha 60: «Quel est le privilège des morts?». Lemmy answers: «Ne plus mourir». This is just great!

On last word: Eddie Constantine and Anna Karina are both terrific in their role.

Out of 100, I give it 79. That's good for *** out of ****.

Seen at home, in Toronto, on November 12th, 2002.
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It's not going to appeal to everyone...
Space_Mafune17 June 2003
Forget about watching this if you have no patience for slow-moving drama, thought-provoking narratives, and/or philosophical discourse.

This film is however unique, virtually impossible to categorize and visually arresting. It's basically a film noir set in an Orwellian future with its lead character using emotion, jokes, philosophy and love to weeds doubts into the rule imposed by a mechanized society of tomorrow....and well it's much more than that too. Recommended to anyone who enjoys the qualities listed in the first paragraph.
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A strange but beautiful adventure
sbahlin9 October 1999
What can you say that hasn't already been said. The dispassionate pastiche that is Lemmy Caution. The lethargy is exhilarating at times. The photography inventive and startling. The sound design unique and ground breaking. The acting superb. The music fantastique! Love it or get out of here!
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Disturbing reality.
mjs234228 April 1999
Complex plot about a secret agent who arrives from the outer space outlands in the capital of a large union of nations which resides in space. The people in this capital are acting very crazy. They are token under tranquillizers the whole time and even don't know anymore what love is. The system from the state is under the spell from a large, intelligent computer, alpha 60, which cares about nearly everything. Developed from a scientist (von Braun aka Nosferatu, both are hints to germans, the first to werner von braun, the developer from the apollo moon project, the second from the first dracula movie ever, the german soundless movie: NOSFERATU 1922)he tries to install a system of pure logic and rationalism. But what about emotions? And freedom? No one cares anymore... And then the secret agent comes into town and have to fight against this system. Goddard shows nearly no special effects and has made his movie in Paris in the sixties, which is a good trick (except that it is cheap!), because it says that this system is not far away from our reality.
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Alphaville, a strange adventure of Jean-Luc Godard..
alexx66828 January 2005
Based on a simple philosophical premise (Alphaville is a city where emotions are not allowed, everything is based on logic, everyone has a clear purpose imposed upon him, people that believe in ideals are executed etc), Jean-Luc Godard uses an arsenal of directorial tricks to transform this into a futuristic film-noir, a surrealist collage, a humanistic elegy, an off-beat comedy etc.

In the end, Alphaville doesn't quite fully achieve it's potential. Some of the sequences look amateurish, some of the verbose scenes are too much etc. But it's a worthwhile watch for any cinephille. And even so early in his career, Godard shows a healthy desire to turn the rules upside down.
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A movie few else would dare.
Austen29 March 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Godard was one of the most brilliant directors to ever make movies. His rebellious attitude and style simply puts some people off, which is unfortunate since Godard's movies are smart, well-crafted and, yes, entertaining.

Alphaville is most often compared to movies that came after it, which goes to show how unique and groundbreaking it was (even if perhaps this has been obscured in hindsight). What Godard achieved is seen best at what HASN'T aged. Anytime you show computers and technology in a sci-fi movie it invariably will look dated years later. Yet Godard's stylized approach looks far beyond the superficiality of Alphaville. For example, the first scene with Lemmy Caution in Alpha 60 shows him monitored with microphones manipulated about his head. The jerky motion of the mics (equipment that isn't futuristic is the slightest) portray the mechanical control of Alpha 60 with cunning insight. The microphones are neither left static nor moved with fluid grace (just as another scene with discontinuous shots of a fight). The ominous, intermittent movements suggest the limitations of this computerized state.

I like this movie in its correlation to William S. Burroughs' fictional world Interzone. Alphaville's Dr. Nosferatu (which translates into the undead, as in vampires) bears some resemblance to Burroughs' Dr. Benway. Alpha 60, the monsterous human/machine computer running Alphaville, functions much as Burroughs' Nova Mob. Concerns over science dehumanizing society are pervasive. The scene where Alphaville executes the poets using water ballet echoes the fictional dichotomy the state has drawn.

"Alphaville" is hypnotic. The continuous use of flashing lights impresses this. The ending is what cracks me up. Ending with Natasha VonBraun (Anna Karina) straining to utter "" Is this all Lemmy Caution has faught for, some sentimental tripe? Maybe Godard subtly revised Hitchcock's ending to his second "The Man Who Knew Too Little"--Jimmy Stewart delivers the beyond-obvious line, "Sorry I'm late, I just had to go pick up Henry."

"Alphaville" throws together a multitude of increasingly aggresive styles. After "Le Mepris" in 1963, this movie (if one ever could) shows a transition to Godard's scathing "Weekend" in 1967. Godard made so many wonderful movies each its own treasure. Not that everybody should make movies like Godard, I do wish everyone could make movies as good as his are.
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I like this movie, but liking it is difficult.
nikteslamodernwonder13 June 2004
Its hard to say exactly how much I liked Alphaville. Seeing it was a valuable experience, and at times was quite enjoyable. However, there was definitely a part of me that couldn't wait for it to be over.

Probably the best part of the movie was the general "vibe." I wholeheartedly approve of its all-around aesthetic. Using (at the time) contemporary Paris was, in my opinion, a genius move. It makes the film a lot more plausible- it's like saying, "The future isn't some phoney-baloney Jetsons stuff. It will probably look a lot like today." Plus, in my opinion, special effects are the #1 contributing factor to making a movie seem "dated", something that Alphaville doesn't need to worry about. Either way, JLG succeeds in giving us a bleak, antiseptic vision of the future. Unlike nearly all of the recent dystopic sci-fi, there's nothing whimsical about the future in Alphaville. It is cold and realistic.

However, I found that, at a lot of points, Alphaville tended to be rather slow. Usually, these slower parts occurred when the movie more or less gave itself over to philosophical speculation (such as the Alpha 60's long monologues), and pretty much abandoned the idea of keeping our attention. Don't get me wrong, I realize that the philosophical underpinnings are absolutely necessary to Alphaville- however, I think that JLG should have chosen to "show, and not tell." (Actually, I find this to be the case with a lot of sci-fi)

And I really don't understand the various action sequences in the film. (WHY would they have let him keep his gun, and take it with him when he's interrogated?) I would say that this particular element lends credence to the theory that the whole movie was meant as sort of a spoof.

In the end, I would probably recommend this film to my more open-minded friends, with the one proviso that they watch it early in the day, when they are less likely to fall asleep.
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The Sci-Fi Noir by Godard
claudio_carvalho4 March 2014
In a near future, the American secret agent Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) travels to Alphaville posing as the journalist Ivan Johnson from the Figaro-Pravda newspaper. His mission is to find the missing agent Henry Dickson (Akim Tamirof) and to convince Professor von Braun (Howard Vernon) to come with him to Nueva York. Prof. von Braun is actually Leonard Nosferatu and has created the powerful computer Alpha 60 that has conceived the inhuman dystopian society of Alphaville, where love, conscience, poetry and emotion have been banished and words are systematically eliminated from the dictionary. Alpha 60 is also omnipresent and Lemmy has the assistance of Natacha von Braun (Anna Karina), who is the daughter of von Braun. Soon he falls in love with Natacha but he needs to complete his mission before leaving Alphaville.

"Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy" is my favorite Godard movie and maybe his most digestible film despite being weird. This is the third time that I see this sci-fi noir (last time was on 07 September 2001) and it is still an intriguing story that resembles George Orwell's 1984, inclusive with the idea of rewriting the dictionary removing words related to emotions and including new ones. The scary atmosphere gives the sensation of nightmare and the sets and locations are ahead of time. My vote is six.

Title (Brazil): "Alphaville"
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Private-eye Lemmy arrives in Alphaville and must search for missing scientist and kill the creator
ma-cortes22 August 2011
Suddenly the world is Alphaville , a trench-coat wearing secret agent is a breathless race against the Masters of future . As an extraordinarie Sleuth is sent into the future world and arrives in Alphaville . This is Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine), an American private-eye, who investigates at a futuristic and logic-constructed city located on another planet. Caution is moved from his usual twentieth century setting, and places him in a futuristic sci-fi dystopia, the technocratic dictatorship of Alphaville .His mission is to rescue a trapped scientific and chase the criminal brain , Nosferatu or Professor Von Braun (Howard Vernon , Jesus Franco's ordinary) . Here he meets Natacha Von Braun (Anna Karina who married Jean Luc Godard) and tried to arrange an interview with her father, saying he is a journalist. In the Red Star hotel he meets Henri Dickson (Akim Tamiroff) and happen weird events . The futuristic city called Alphavilled is run by an electronic brain computer that submits the citizens .

Eddie Constantine came to the film through producer André Michelin, who had the actor under contract , he is good as super private-eye in this jumbled New Wave film . Constantine had become a popular actor in France and Germany through his portrayal of tough-guy detective Lemmy Caution in a series of earlier films and the character was originally created by British pulp novelist Peter Cheyney . It's Sam Spade type of story with Science-Fiction leanings and stretching rather far for some of the plot points . The picture is full of cinematic and literary references as Jorge Luis Borges , Raymond Chandler , and George Orwell , adding comic-book style . Like most of Godard's films, the performances and dialog in Alphaville were substantially improvised . Alphaville mingles the genres of Dystopian science fiction and film noir. Although set far in the future on another planet, there are no special effects or elaborate sets; in spite of , the movie was filmed in real locations in Paris by cameraman Raoul Coutard , Godard usual, in precious white and black photography , the night-time streets of the capital becoming the streets of Alphaville, while modernist glass and concrete buildings represent the city's interiors . Suspenseful and thrilling musical score by Paul Misraky . This low-budgeted motion picture is originally directed by Jean Luc Godard who created various masterpieces of the Nouvelle vague as ¨A Bout De Suffle , Pierrot Le Fou and La Chinoise ¨ . ¨Lemmy Caution¨ won the Golden Bear award of the 15th Berlin International Film Festival in 1965 but is recommended for New Wave fans , only .
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Awful, Pretentious, And Self-Important
wes-11526 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Well, I made it through about half an hour of this HIDEOUS movie before shutting it off, and I feel obliged to warn others who may fall into the trap of the good press and critical praise for Alphaville.

It takes a lot to get me to turn off a film. For Alphaville, the event that pushed me over the edge was a 5 minute soliloquy on the nature of time by the voice of the "Alpha 60" computer. This voice sounds less like a computer, and more like a 500 pound Frenchman with swollen adenoids on his deathbed after a prolonged bout with lung cancer whilst eating a buttered croissant. I couldn't stand another second of this disgusting voice. Especially since the text of the speech was horribly banal, trite, and painfully pretentious.

I have read claims that Kubrick was inspired by this voice when creating HAL for 2001. I can't believe that this is so. Unless Kubrick himself has stated this, I would sooner believe that this is just a halcyon fantasy of the pseudo-intellectual fans of this hideous waste of celluloid.

The photography of this film is amateurish, at best. The editing is choppy and ham-fisted, with random shots of flashing traffic lights, arrows, and E=MC^2 neon signs inserted between cuts...which I expect is supposed to place the viewer in awe of the film maker's cleverness, but is instead laughably pretentious. Or maybe it's because the filmmaker didn't have coverage for his scenes so he used visual non-sequiturs as cut-aways to make his poor production and shooting skills look like "art."

The wretched acting is stilted, droll and flat of affect, apparently in some kind of misguided and pitiful effort to either pay homage to, or parody, the noir thriller.

The plot themes explored by Alphaville are notionally childish, and are nothing that hasn't been explored a hundred times over by better film and television productions, both before and since the production of this movie.

Really, I can't say enough bad things about Alphaville. Stay away. Worse than Plan 9 From Outer Space! (Which I watched all the way through!)
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Pretentious Pseudo-Philosophical Psycho-Babble
ZenVortex2 October 2008
When I first saw this movie in 1965, I was a naive, impressionable student and thought it was daring, profound, and totally cool. Now I'm grown up and after seeing it for the second time in 2008, I realize how dumb and easily fooled by "sophisticated art critics" I was back then. Without a shadow of a doubt, this movie is:




Although Eddie Constantine delivers a reasonably good performance, the production values (sets, direction, cinematography, and editing) are so amateurish they are reminiscent of the notorious Ed Wood movie Plan 9 From Outer Space. It's really that bad! The simple truth is that despite his reputation as an avante garde film maker, Jean Luc Godard has no real talent and wouldn't last 5 minutes in Hollywood.

Anna Karina is cute but can't act. Neither can the rest of the supporting cast. Even the great character actor Akim Tamiroff is totally wasted. The plot is unbelievable, the dialog is corny, and the music is grating. After watching the DVD, I tossed it in the garbage can. Don't waste your time on this miserable clunker, which is basically a student film masquerading as art.
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Should have given it to Pasolini
Einarr0128 October 2012
I really wanted to like the movie, firstly because I like the new wave of French cinema made in the 60's and secondly, because the plot seemed to be something that would strongly appeal to my cinematographic interests when it comes down to dystopian movies. Being a person that watched quite a few titles throughout his life I must say I was seldom more irritated by a movie like this one that managed to make me turn it off after as little as thirty minutes.

I don't really know why Godard didn't manage to pull this off, I suppose that he wasn't entirely aware of what he should be doing in order to create a Orwellian, dictatorship driven, anti utopian movie. It starts off extremely unpromising, as the environment is a patchwork of symbols that were not by any means used in place, not to mention the sound used for the movie was the most inappropriate thriller - like type of sound that they could possibly pick up from just any half - decent crime movie made by the same time.

If you manage to neglect the messed up environment that is a patchwork of this and that but never manages to make it up to the full picture that it should represent, there is no possible way you won't get extremely irritated by the computer - generated - Big brother - type of voice that brags nonsense that tries to sound as if it's brainwashing the listener. Beware that this is light-years behind 1984 - a movie, based on a great novel crafted to perfection - a dystopian masterpiece, that I can only praise.

After wanting to smash my sound system and after trying to adjust it well enough so the inadequate sound effects won't damage the proper functions of my nerves, I started thinking how this movie would have been a masterpiece if created by Pasolini. I remember how he managed to pull out the entire Theorema using the sound of a church bell, which by no means sounded anywhere that inappropriate as the sound effects found here.

Apart from that I do believe he would have done great job in implementing the political meaning into the movie. Godard failed in his attempt to be overly artsy in an environment that was probably chosen by himself - one that managed to fail his movie even more.

As a conclusion, with a little bit of sadness I should admit that at least the cover art looks somehow acceptable and pleasant, and that is why I bother to give one star to this hour and a half tape of lost meanings.
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Lazy/complacent throbbing of a movie
vostf19 August 2003
Godard is nothing but a frustrated intellectual who indulged himself into movie-making. Yet movie-making is an over-sized word to depict that patchwork of philosophical quotations and minimalist narration. Lemmy Caution arrives in Alphaville from the outer world. He does not belong here but he's got a mission: understand what he's been sent for. Alphaville is a Brave New City and it takes the whole movie and full loads of computer babbling (life, conscience... you know) to make him go mad about this, run amuck and away with the girl he met and fell for (you're telling me?).

So Alphaville is nothing but a base B movie with a high-brow pretense brought forward as a stylistic composition (note to weirdos: read 'philosophical homage to film noir'). Maybe you can smile at the the stylistic composure of the main character Lemmy Caution, some kind of a poor man's Sam Spade looking for booze in a poor man's Metropolis.

Well, you know what? Godard was lucky he had to cut A bout de soufflé (Breathless) down to 90min. That way the movie get focused on characters and action (plus it had JP Belmondo and Jean Seberg to take its breath). Billy Wilder said this guy was a lazy bum who brings his notepad full of scribbles and pretends to be the genius that can pile up shots that will eventually make a movie. Quotes/ideas/dreams... that doesn't make a movie although lots of people in post New Wave France cherish the sweet thought of it. Creativity is 1% beachcombing and 99% work. Work alone AND with other creative people: the hell with the overwhelming auteur bulls**t. People working alone can still write books or paint for instance but had Godard only tried this I doubt he'd have ever risen from the gutter where he belongs.

OK, enough with the Godard rant. That must be me, I just didn't get it that the subtext was much more important than all the on screen travails (??!). I'm intellectually, poetically and deconstructionismatically challenged. But I shall die a happy man for I know that somewhere on the face of this planet there is a species ready to take over our debilitated humanity. Yep, I'm f**king relieved to know that some people are so smart as to read the future in a cripple's balls.
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If there were ever a film to test your patience on how much you really like, appreciate, and understand it, here it is, in stone-cold celluloid
StevePulaski17 July 2014
Even though Alphaville is about the midpoint in Jean-Luc Godard's New Wave, sixties filmography, it's really unsurprising to see him attempt to make a film that explores and subverts the general visual and narrative quips of your archetypal film noir story. The result is an interesting, if ultimately kind of droll, exploration from a filmmaking known for defying all convention and expectations like it's his job.

The film stars Eddie Constantine in the daunting lead role of Lemmy Caution, a secret agent who is entering a town called Alphaville, posing as a journalist named "Ivan Johnson," claiming to work for the Figaro-Pravda. Caution is on a several top secret missions, one of which involves searching for a missing secret agent by the name of Henry Dickson (Akim Tamiroff), another is to exterminate the creator of Alphaville, who is Professor von Braun (Howard Vernon), and he has to destroy the computer that controls all of Alphaville, which is named the "Alpha 60." Alpha 60 was created by von Braun and controls all of Alphaville, making the city one of the most artificial cities in the world. Alpha 60 has completely dismantled the ideas of free thought, individualism, and self-satisfaction, making concepts like love, poetry, feeling, emotion, and mood nonexistent and stripping people down to the bare basic living, breathing, and speaking organisms.

Alphaville adheres to the aesthetic and visual chemistry of American film noir quite nicely, making its presence known through dark and brooding chic and familiar camera angles. Having this cold and extremely unique style mesh together with Godard's often deviant and unconventional cinematic structure make for two very fitting styles that mesh well in the presence of one another. This shows that while Godard is keen on replicating the well-known characteristics and visualizations brought together by film noir - such as extreme darkness, cold and isolated cityscapes, rain on empty streets, and heavy use of shadows and the unseen elements - he isn't afraid to continue doing what he has been doing, which is plugging in his style even where one would assume it doesn't fit.

As an exercise in style and the subversion of it, Godard's Alphaville can be granted a fairly high honor. However, despite a plot that really questions individualist freedom and the value placed on freewill, Godard does another alienating and disguising of that central idea in what seems to be a frustrating attempt to keep audiences within arm's length of the film at all times. There was never any specific connection between myself and the characters of the film, and because of that, I relied on style for the one-hundred minutes, finding nothing but guttural emptiness and a frustrating lack of interest in their motivations and interactions with one another. Even when the gorgeous, scene-stealer Anna Karina walks on screen, playing Natacha von Braun, the daughter of the professor and creator of Alpha 60, who is introduced to the complex emotions and feelings of love and happiness upon being introduced to Ivan Johnson, she doesn't make much of a splash like she did in Godard's earlier works like Breathless and Vivre Sa Vie.

Film noir has always been a genre of film that has alienated me, whether it was the classic Maltese Falcon or Godard's early venture into the area, I've always been completed turned off by the characters, the structure, and their motivation, with the only thing I can really find myself immersing in and embracing is the style and the genre's unique and beautiful visuals. Even with traditional, American film noir, I found a certain, almost indescribable emptiness to it, but put Godard, his filming techniques, and his convention-defying aesthetic inside an already cold and unwelcoming environment and you have me even further lost.

With all that being said, Alphaville is still lucky to have Constantine and Karina as its two core performers, both of whom usher in identifiable chemistry in the later scenes, and both work off one another in their ambiguous performances. Even Raoul Coutard's incredible cinematography compliments the film to a higher state than most films would get on cinematography alone, as he continues to emphasize his love for crisp, clean shots as well as holding nothing back in terms of visuals. Despite these golden attributes, Alphaville still gets brought down to a lesser level thanks to a story structure that finds ways to purposefully mystify, as well provide a viewer with frustrating attributes such as a grating narration in efforts to only make an already disconnecting story more disconnecting as it goes on. If there were ever a film to test your patience on how much you really like, appreciate, and understand it, here it is, in stone-cold celluloid.

Starring: Eddie Constantine, Anna Karina, Akim Tamiroff, and Howard Vernon. Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard.
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Dive in and enjoy this extraordinary film
ske1fr29 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
OK s-meister, you've chosen to study Drama, Film and Television as your minor, and your first course will be Film Studies. Turn up at your lecturer's room on Monday and watch your first film, which will be...Alphaville.

For a guy raised on mainstream Hollywood movies this was a baptism of fire! It's in black and white. No problem. It's SF with no hardware. Uh, huh. It starts some guy you've never heard of. It starts with a long tracking shot along a corridor, with a strange, guttural voice talking in French. Let me out!

This is a film full of ideas, typically French, and wonderfully challenging. The voice of Alpha 60? I believe the extraordinary deep voice was that of a person who'd had a laryngectomy. If you had to speak by burping (see Jack Hawkins) you'd sound like that. The swimming pool executions? Watch carefully, first comes a shot, then the swimmers go in and their arms rise and fall as they knife the victim. Marks out of 10? Busby Berkely was never like this.

If you want to see something extraordinary, see this instead of a Hollywood movie. If you can stick with it, you'll begin to experience "la poésie".
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A Pretentious Film by Godard
harschwarz2 January 2005
This film is pretentious. The production values seem almost amateurish. Many fans of this film see it as a strange sort of Sam Spade meets 1984. I do not. It is obvious that all of the effects ,and even the props used are so fake that it made me aware that it was being filmed inside of warehouses and hotels in Paris. The exteriors for instance looked like Paris. In one of the last scenes where Alpha 60 was supposedly killing all life in Alphaville, we see cars zooming by on the Paris street, as though nothing has changed.The editing is also ameturish. There are many jump cuts that are poor transitions to the next scene, and again made me aware of the camera. The dialogue, which I suppose was meant to be clever, is verbose and purposefully confusing for effect sake. The ending is mundane,trite and very corny. "I Love You"? Overall this film was made to be weird for art's sake by Godard, so that artsy film lovers would say "what a masterpiece of scifi film" I'm not one of them. If you want to see a great sci-fi film that has great artistic values,watch Blade Runner,or Barbarella.
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terrible--like a French version of Plan 9 From Outer Space
MartinHafer23 July 2005
OVERRATED "ART FILM" ALERT: The following film is adored by sophisticated and "with it" film fans. The fact that the average person may find the whole thing unfunny and bland is due to their just not being smart enough to understand and appreciate this masterpiece.

One reviewer wrote "minimalism isn't a crime". No it is not, though creating a horrible and pretentious film and labeling it "art" should be. This is a terrible movie and there's practically NOTHING positive I can say about the film. Yet, mysteriously it receives a lot of critical praise while the average viewer might find themselves dumbfounded by its banality--sort of like the old story of the Emperor's New Clothes! Like the little boy that yelled out "the Emperor is nekkid!", I am yelling "this film STINKS!" in the hope that it will prevent you from wasting your time watching it.

As I said above, the movie reminded me of Plan 9--mostly because of the incredibly amateurish camera work, choppiness of the film and the $1.98 that was spent on sets and props! Some say this is because it is part of the "French New Wave Cinema Movement". I might agree if that's another way of saying "bad French films". For example, the computer that rules Alphaville with an iron fist looks like an old space heater (and I really think it is) and the film looks like it was shot in 8mm! If this film was NOT by Godard and if it was not labeled "new wave", it would have been seen as pretentious crap with no real reason to watch it (unless you want an unintentional laugh).

The acting was generally on par with the average zombie film (though with less emotion) and talented people, such as Akim Tamiroff, were completely wasted. The music, at first seemed pretty good, though after a while its repetitiveness really annoyed me.

Now this brings me to Jean-Luc Godard. Although this director has an exceptional reputation, I just don't see why. When I saw his most famous work, Breathless, I was not particularly impressed--it's at best an average film about some nasty people who most viewers will care less about. However, since then I have seen a few other of his films and now realize this MIGHT just be his best film! Pretentious crap like Alphaville, First Name: Carmen (Prénom Carmen), and Pierre le Fou are terrible films no matter how "artistic" they might be.

Judging by how many found this review helpful and how many did not, it is obvious that there are widely divergent views on this film. Go ahead and see it for yourself--just don't say I didn't warn you!
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Against The Dominion Of Reason
nin-chan9 October 2007
Beyond being one of the most singularly brilliant directors in film history, I suspect that Jean-Luc Godard is also one of the most erudite. His best work (Masculin Feminin, Band Of Outsiders, Week End, Pierrot Le Fou and this film) all display a very keen grasp of postmodern crises and express a seizing urgency to confront and address them. All, of course, while referencing (unabashedly) the kaleidoscopic spectrum of Godard's cinematic influences and refracting them through a Brechtian prism. Given that we really haven't navigated out of the postmodern impasse (and in fact are much closer to realising the absurd realities capture in this movie), films like "Alphaville" are no less salient to our age than Godard's tumultuous sixties.

The issue grappled with here is logocentrism, the apocalyptic (and ominous) nightmare that Jacques Derrida prophesied early in his philosophical career. Everything is subordinated to reason, and life's mercurial caprices are reduced to nought by an exact calculation of their probabilities. Alphaville's lexicon is precisely defined and canonized as intractable scripture, subversive terms being systematically erased on a daily basis. Clauses such as "why"s are replaced with terse "because"s, the word "conscience" has become anathema to Alphaville life, so archaic and outmoded in discourse that it has been relegated to the oblivion of history. Public displays of affection are punishable by firing squad, as are tears. Sex is reduced to a vulgar and base urge, satisfied by slavish and automaton-like pleasure drones. A society of informants and "M"-like mutual suspicion is engendered, completing the totalitarian Panopticism of the project. The worst thing, of course, is that people *enjoy* the chimerical certainty that this Of course, there are avenues of escape from this sordid debacle. Suicide is encouraged as a reprieve, but crestfallen types who withdraw from economic production and idle about in maudlin reveries are discovered and put to the guillotine. It all sounds like an unfathomable dystopia, but I doubt that we, lest the meaning of "conscience" escapes us as well, can smother the resonances Alphaville has with our own mechanized information age.

What separates us with the Alphavilleans is a delicate precipice, and we are close to fashioning the despotic mega-computer that will drain life of all its mystery and poetry. Why should we surrender the freedom of impulse to the unfeeling dictates of logic? History has shown us what happens when rationalism takes the helm- Nazism (whose logic is identical with that of the bloodthirsty Alphavilleans: "It's illogical for superior beings to refrain from attacking lesser ones!", and whose disdain/subsequent revision of history is again echoed here), Hiroshima, among other abominations.

Among Godard's (seemingly innumerable) detractors, I assume that most decry Godard's maverick style- breakneck pace, self-conscious melodrama, Brechtian 'epic theatre' reflexivity, occasionally academic and seemingly impenetrable dialogue. Yet, I think that for all his intellectual rigor in Alphaville, Godard also poses an extremely important question- why do we always expect transparency in cinema, and a necessary correlation between reality and art? Why should we expect meanings to be evident without effort, or for there to be didactic meanings at all? This egoistic pragmatism would reduce the poetry of cinema to the same level as a toothbrush, an object whose worth is determined entirely by its "being-at-hand" (as Heidegger would say). People who obsess about meanings in films have no respect for the beauty of life itself, which is opaque, inscrutable, and endlessly enigmatic. In an epoch where Man is little more than a vessel of capital, laboring for immaterial/impossible/insatiable financial ideals, poetry restores him to himself. Godard is often regarded as a political figure, and though his Marxist sympathies obviously seem retrograde now, his sentiments regarding the function of art surely are not. The philosophy here is as crucial to our time as that of Georges Bataille, that of "poetry for all"....and "cinema for all".

Godard is right to indicate his concerns about the totalisation of language- as the semiologists have told us, the structures of language and the relationship between signifier/signified are illusory and arbitrary. All texts, in Derrida's thinking, undermine and contradict themselves from within- to insist that language is always transparent and self-revealing, and that only ONE discernible meaning can be discerned, is to be fascist and suppress public discourse and democratic discussion. Words unfettered from their everyday contexts, as Stephane Mallarme, the immortal symbolist poet has illustrated, reveal beautiful new horizons for meaning and the endless multiplicity of experience. If language, as Heidegger says, "speaks man", why should we settle for threadbare definitions that have been inherited and taken for granted? Language should not merely be a functional apparatus used to propagate our mundane everydayness, because it is not a static "thing". Godard expresses this throughout his entire corpus of work, defying the quotidian with unprecedented brio.

Whether you like Godard or not, his quest to refashion film grammar created new frontiers and possibilities for film-making, and Alphaville, in some ways, is his thesis defence in front of po-faced classicists. This is also one of his most vigorous clairon calls for true liberty. Let us resist the fascist inside us, and refuse the humiliation of a society that reduces us all to slaves of commerce.
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a strange invitation
tsf-196227 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This film bears an unmistakable resemblance to Orson Welles' "Le Proces," which was made just three years earlier: elegant black and white photography, the use of real Paris locations, a plot that combines absurdist humor with social commentary, and a performance by Orson's old pal Akim Tamiroff. Eddie Constantine plays Lemme Caution as a cross between Mike Hammer and James Bond, with a dash of Sergeant Joe Friday; with his pockmarked face, gravelly voice, trench coat and fedora, Constantine evokes the mystique of Humphrey Bogart, one of Godard's idols, while the exquisite Anna Karina, with her velvet voice, shares with Dominique Sanda the ability to convey complex emotions with minimal facial expression. Like much sci-fi, "Alphaville" parodoxically conveys an anti-technology message, which in the long run is self-defeating but makes for great entertainment, especially for those of us less than enamored of the Information Revolution. The plot bears marked similarities to "1984" and "Brave New World" as well as stories by Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov. "Alphaville" has a strongly anti-communist, almost libertarian message, which is ironic in view of Godard's later commitment to Maoism. The film's logical gaps are perhaps fitting in view of its protest against the tyranny of mathematical logic, which hearkens back to Dostoevsky's "Notes From Underground." Godard shot the entire film in real Paris locations, mostly at night, giving them a spooky, futuristic look. Alpha-60, the supercomputer who rules Alphaville, is a clear forerunner of HAL 9000 in "2001: A Space Odyssey." This is a movie that both entertains and makes us think, defending the primacy of human emotions and values in a world increasingly dominated by machines.
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surprisingly, a rather accessible Godard film for non Godard die-hards; intellectual without being dis-interesting and boring, with perfect photography
Quinoa198426 May 2004
Without pitting into an over-sized budget and effects, Jean-Luc Godard relies on his wits as an artist and filmmaker to adapt Paul Eluard's novel on a society of evil, satirical, 'logical', and demonstrative force. What achieves a film like Alphaville to the status of an audacious, superlative art-film (with the broad outlines of the noir attitude Godard eats up like pudding), is it isn't an entirely classifiable film to put to genre. One can go directly to the word 'science fiction', and it's near justifiable to do so. But this is like sci-fi for those who only read the books, both of the pulp kind and philosophical breed - thus one of the film's most accessible qualities is it translates novelistic techniques in a way.

That's another touch that Alphaville (aka The Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution, played by Eddie Constantine) puts forth both in technique of the photography (compositions) and music, as well as the script. As in his other films, particularly from the 60's, Godard seems to pepper these characters in the city with dialog and twists that spark good philosophical debate...the fact that so much of the dialog - along with the camera - moves to a beat of consistent poetry, in a environment where practically all don't know what the word means, is a feat that Godard is cool to handle. Like in Band of Outsiders he's toying with the aspects of the cinematic process, while presenting a cohesive narrative (at least far more so than something like his version of King Lear, which is Shakespeare cross-bred with H.S. Thompson and then edited through an acid-head's filtered imagination). It will depend on the viewer's taste of talent if they enjoy Alphaville, as naturally with his other films, i.e. Weekend.

But would contemporary audiences consider such experimental side-bars like a beep played whenever a certain word is spoken, or in heightening the tension by changing the exposure on the film so black is white and white is black? I wonder if my friends would find some of this pretentious after so many years of Star Wars and Close Encounters. Then again, maybe those who have read Orwell or seen Gilliam's Brazil, or even the old Bogart detective films, would find more interest than others. At a young age, Godard's films generally contain the qualities by a parent creating a film for his children, the audience- he prepares you for like by f***king with your head, and it will either tick an audience member off, or others will come to enjoy it and dig in to it with repeat interest. For example, the voice of Alpha 60, the head honcho and 'logical' leader of the city of Alphaville and its doped-up type civilians, at first had me a little bugged too. And much of what he was saying the first time around was intriguing, but befuddling for my mind to take all in.

And although Godard strikes up a chord with his main players (Constantine and Karina notably), it's Coutard and Misraki's show as much as his. Their touches add to Godard's vision, as Coutard brings the director some of his most indelible images: the long takes down the corridors of the hotel, the dank lighting in the darkness during Alpha 60's rant, the unusual angles...and the music cues are similar too, though in another context to say Contempt. The score rises and falls, is repetitive, and it's lyrical in a sense: threatening, mysterious, for a thriller that itself isn't entirely serious with itself.

But perhaps the most wonderful thing I found about Alphaville was how Godard juggled the philosophical/societal issues and schematics in a underlying serious way (as most great sci-fi pieces do), and also made it satirical and funny. You have the theme of segregation (err, Nazism in a sense, in Alphaville only a few nationalities of people are allowed to assimilate, while all others commit suicide or get killed in roves), dehumanization (a running gag is that the residents say "I'm very well, thank you very much"), the power that technology holds over a race of people, and destruction through war powers. However, it isn't all thought-provoking carp for the brainy among the audience. He's too smart a filmmaker for that. So, like in Pierrot Le Fou, he lets the audience in on the fact that this IS after all a movie, and you can't have an intellectual heap accompanied by the photography/sound of a poetic-painter without having fun. If a viewer gives him/herself, as I did, one can laugh at the little one liners, and gestures, that one doesn't notice the first time. Overall, I was impressed immensely by this film, and it's a great one, though it isn't the kind of popular sci-fi that'll play on the major cable networks. A+
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