An American private-eye arrives in Alphaville, a futuristic city on another planet which is ruled by an evil scientist named Von Braun, who has outlawed love and self-expression.
Jean-Luc Godard's 1965 film ALPHAVILLE has one of the most bizarre premises in the history of cinema. Godard borrows the character of Lemmy Caution, a tough FBI agent/secret agent played by Eddie Constantine that had appeared in a number of French B movies, and then Godard drops Caution into a science-fiction film. And yet, this film taking place in a different galaxy far, far away doesn't use any specially created sets or fancy ray guns. Instead, Godard simply shot the film at examples of modernist architecture in Paris, in industrial buildings, and among the room-sized IBM mainframe computers of his time. In the dystopian city of Alphaville, all decisions are made by the gigantic Alpha 60 computer that pursues logic at all cost, banning human emotions and leaving the inhabitants zombified. Caution is sent from outside with the task of retrieving Alpha 60's creator, the rogue scientist Von Braun (Howard Vernon). Caution's femme fatale is Natasha Von Braun (Anna Karina), daughter of the scientist, whom she has never met. Though just as zombified as the other inhabitants of Alphaville, Natasha shows a budding individuality. Caution is baffled by the inexplicable behavior shown by the inhabitants of this city, but he remains focused on his goal of extracting Von Braun, no matter how many obstacles are thrown in his way. ALPHAVILLE is often categorized as a science-fiction film, but it's soon obvious that Godard was interested more in the changing world around him in the 1960s. He worried that the technocratic society, the desire to use technology to solve all manner of problems from food distribution to architecture, would rob the human race of a certain flexibility, of a certain liberty, and of a certain poetry. (It's interesting that Godard anticipated so much of the Sixties counterculture that would preoccupy the youth, though he was already well into his thirties, and themes that would later be explored by thinkers like Theodore Roszak.) Alpha 60 is less a vision of the far future, something from a time of intergalactic space travel, than a rising trend of the mid 20th-century. I had heard of the premise and much of the details before and I thought the film would be lame, but I absolutely loved it. I came to ALPHAVILLE after watching Godard's work to date, which features some remarkable imagery and avant-garde techniques, but is rarely very comedic. I had no idea that ALPHAVILLE would be so hilarious. As the film opens, we see Godard playing with the trope of the hardboiled detective or spy overcoming assassins sent to kill him, and this is exaggerated to the point it becomes slapstick. There are a lot of absurdist touches here (see the mass execution scene, where clearly any attempt at realism has been avoided). The performances here are great, too. In spite of the unusual script, which might have had some actors blowing off the director's concerns, Eddie Constantine unflappably maintains his noir style here. Akim Tamiroff turns in a great supporting role as Caution's fellow agent Dickson, and this already elderly actor brings in a lifetime of experience in comedic roles. Karina continues to show that, while Godard was originally interested in her merely as a pretty face, she had enormous talent. Some of the long shots are cleverly done, and the film includes an exciting car chase.
Ivan Caution explores the dystopian Alphaville where the only truth is logic, anything else is punishable by death. Everybody is popping pills, womenn are classes by their seductive level and the men are merely puppets to the computer Alpha 60. The plot is strangely reminiscent of today, almost in a predictive fashion. It seems to be influenced by 1984 but it doesn’t do so in a repetitive or tiring manner. Moreover the film is really refreshing. Shots that simply don’t happen anymore. The story although basically similar to many movies, doesn’t seem that predicable and I wasn’t dreading the end. The love story is also not just thrown in there, but actually helps understand what kind of place Alphaville really is. Effects that could be done at home with ease, but yet work so well. For example, at one point a character interacts with a hanging bulb, which then goes on to swing and show us all the angles of light that could arise. Another example is a straight on shot of a mans blood stained shirt after he gets shot. Throughout the movie there are flashes of different things:lights, fans, and neon displays. This is sometimes overlapped with the narrator who seems to be the Alpha 60 computer. Acting is amazing. Cinematography is awesome. Plot is great, not insanely good, but not bad either. Really enjoyed this piece of art, and hopefully more people will too.