Alphaville

I tried to watch this in full as the first film of the year, but I quickly lost interest in it and watched The Force Awakens instead. Last night I decided to finish watching it, and while it did get a bit better, I didn’t think much of it overall. It was directed by Jean-Luc Godard, so that basically means this is a high-art film that makes me a film snob just for watching it.

It is lauded on the interwebs as an intellectual, witty, stylish, and age-less film, amongst other adjectives. And yes, I suppose it is all of those, but for me it was strangely paced, a bit sloppily made, and things were happening which didn’t make any sense at all. The dialogue used lines and quotes from a couple of well-known poets which helped to confuse things a little.

The story is about Lemmy Caution, an undercover agent posing as a journalist who drives to Alphaville, a large city controlled by a sentient computer called “Alpha 60”. He gets there by driving his Ford Galaxie from “the Outlands”. Lemmy’s mission was to find out what happened to another agent, kill Alpha 60’s creator, Professor von Braun, and to destroy Alphaville. Lemmy is dressed just like The Bogart in Casablanca, and is constantly taking snaps with an Agfa camera.

Alphaville’s residents are conditioned to not show emotion, and to never say the word “why”, instead they must use “because”. Anyone showing emotion, digs poetry, or shows symptoms of free thought are rounded up and executed by being shot in the back next to a pool, then collected by several women in swimsuits who also do a little synchronised swimming while they are at it. The fellow in the white shirt below makes an emotional speech before getting plugged, but he survives that and continues his speech in the water, so the sychronised swimmer ladies push him under the water until he is quite dead…

There is of course a love interest in the form of the daughter of Professor von Braun (played Jean-Luc Godard’s wife at the time, Anna Karina). She has been brainwashed so cannot show emotion, but discovers she is falling in love, putting her in danger.

Throughout the film we could hear the voice of Alpha 60 talking to Lemmy, and his voice was quite unique, as well as a little annoying. From Wikipedia: The voice of Alpha 60 was performed by a man with a mechanical voice box replacing his cancer-damaged larynx. That certainly explains the weirdness there.

Also from Wikipedia: Despite its futuristic scenario, Alphaville was filmed entirely in and around Paris and no special sets or props were constructed. Buildings used were the Electricity Board building for the Alpha 60 computer centre and the Hotel Sofitel Paris le Scribe.

An American actor by the name of Eddie Constantine played Lemmy. He was popular in Europe and seems to have spent most of his career making French or German films. He named one of his sons Lemmy.

I think I will need to watch this again, perhaps I will understand it better second time around. If it was more polished and some of the editing less jarring it would certainly help to make it easier to watch. It did have some interesting ideas though, and some scenes were fun to watch. Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is a similar kind of film, but does it better in many ways.

Date watched: February 21st
Score: 6.5/10
Film count 2019: 3

Last Year in Marienbad

If this film was a painting it would be a Jackson Pollack…nice to look at, but no idea what it is about. It was released in 1961 and is an Italian/French production, in French.

U.S. title of the film

There is no real story, and the characters have no names. There are three main protagonists, two dapper dudes and a stylish woman. It appears one of the dapper dudes is trying to convince the woman shack up with him, and the other dude, who is either a beau or husband, is scheming a bit. He is a gambler and continuously beats the other dude at a simple but difficult card game, really getting on the dudes nerves.

Dapper Dude 1 about to be beaten by Dapper Dude 2.
Dapper Dude 1, mirror, stylish woman

The rest of the film is just lots of dialogue about statues, gardens, doors, photographs, mirrors, and hotels. Often the dialogue is repeated or recycled, we hear the same thing over and over again. Also, there is a lot of pipe organ music, dark stuff, playing throughout. Sometimes all of the characters including many extras just freezing in unison with the camera slowly moving past them, then unfreeze. Or, they will all freeze except one of the main actors who slowly glides past them. There is a lot of slow in this film, although in one scene Dapper Dude 1 and the woman are slowly walking along one of the many corridor shots, then suddenly speed up for no apparent reason.

Nice corridor

At lot of the film was made inside or outside a couple of large palaces in Germany, quite amazing places. For me that was the most interesting part of the film.

The characters talked about this statue a lot, trying to figure out what it all meant.

This film is a “left bank” new wave French film, just a fancy way of saying it is an experimental film made by ultra-hipster directors. “Right bank” films were more commercially successful, and less pretentious, and included directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. I am definitely right bank.

Contemplating the life of shoes

Most film critics say this is one of the greatest films ever made, some say that it is pretentious nonsense, and some just don’t know what to make of it. Mostly I just found this quite dull, and confusing as heck. Read this review, it gives you a good idea of what real reviewers say.

The director himself said there was no story and no meaning to the film, just take from it what you will…fair enough. For me it was just a very nice film to look at, especially as it was filmed in nice black and white (one scene noticeably changed to greys and whites) , and also in widescreen which suited the location.

If someone asks me what this film is about, I will slowly walk away from them, preferably down the nearest corridor.

Date watched: December 23rd
Score: 5/10
Confuse-O-meter score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 84

Beyond The Time Barrier

This is a 1960 science fiction film that was made in 10 days, and it shows.

The story is about a test pilot who jumps in his X-80 super fighter jet and whizzes off into space, aiming to break the 6,000 mph mark. What he ends up doing is transport himself to the year 2024. There he discovers that the world has been affected by a plague caused by the nuclear tests of the 50’s and 60’s, and we discover that this is an anti-nuke film.

The year 2024 (actual screenshot from the film)

Most of the population has become mindless savages who are held captive by people who are not savage but are mostly deaf mutes. The big boss, named The Supreme, and his chief security officer are the only ones who can speak, and they don’t want the pilot to go back to the past. Being held captive are four other time travellers from various times in the past, including a meddling Ruskie. They want to help the pilot go back to the 1960’s so he can prevent the nuclear tests, but actually they are planning on going back too.

“Take that you cad!”

The beautiful girl in the story is Princess Trirene, granddaughter of the The Supreme, and she can read minds and she trusts the pilot so helps him escape to the past. Once back in 1960 the pilot instantly ages to an old man, but he manages to convince the Pentagon brass that nuclear tests must stop.

“Gimme some sugar baby!”
“Spare a talent for an old ex-leper. “

The acting in this film is quite wooden, and at times some actors were in ultra-dramatic mode. The dialogue was simple and quite silly at times, especially the science boffins’ explanation of why the pilot went ahead in time. I liked the fact that the Pentagon brass accepted his highly implausible story about his adventures and demand that nuclear testing must stop, they basically just said “Yeah, alright then, you seem to be telling the truth”. If it was a 2018 film starring The Cruiser it would take half the film for Tommo to convince them, not 30 seconds.

“So, you went to the year 2024?”. “Yep, sure did”. “And you reckon we have to stop nuclear testing?”. “Yep”. “Seems legit, better do something about it then”.

The director was Edgar G. Ulmer, who also directed The Man from Planet X. I can’t decide which film I like more…maybe The Man from Planet X just because of the wacky alien.

The film was made with the cooperation of the Air Force. From Wikipedia: The film’s action sequences used Air Force weapons, M1 carbines and M1911A1 pistols, with the actors taking care not to fire the weapons directly at one another.

This is neither bad nor good, but I found it slightly entertaining just for the silliness of it all.

Date watched: November 23rd
Score: 5/10
Film count 2018: 75

Andrei Rublev

This is a 1966 Russian film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky (he of Solaris and Stalker fame, both excellent films), based loosely on the story of Andrei Lublev, an icon painter in 15th century Russia. It has been called one of the greatest films of all time.

It is a long film at 183 minutes (depending on which version you watch), and is very heavy going. The story follows Andrei and his painter friends as they leave their monastery and find work painting in a cathedral.

The story is told in seven episodes which follow Andrei, or other characters that were part of his story. The story was very religious and had concepts that were too religious for me to follow, or required some back knowledge of Russian history. The sometimes confusing subtitles did not help.

But, the film-making, acting, and sets were all superb, very much like a Kurosawa film. The attack on the old Russian city of Vladimir was quite well done and looked quite dangerous in some scenes. Unfortunately there was some obvious cruelty to a horse in one scene, which I never like to see, especially in a film. The acting was so natural, it seemed as though you were watching a documentary rather than a historical drama.

Fifteenth century Russia was obviously a barbaric place. There was a lot of killing and torture, famine, and general mayhem. But, at the same time, people were trying to live as best they could and make a life between all of the chaos. At least that is what this film showed us.

I am not really sure I would class this as one of my greatest films of all time. Perhaps if I went to film-appreciation school I might learn more about it, and better understand what was going on. But, it was certainly epic stuff, and despite the heavy going was interesting and thought-provoking.

This article explains the film much better than I ever could. Read it, then watch the film.

For me Stalker was a better film, confusing too, but mermerising.

Date watched: July 21st and 22nd
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 47

2001: A Space Odyssey

I have seen this at least two times before, but it is one of those films that one must return to every now and then because it is just so darn good, and a real thought provoker. I last watched it in 2008.

It is quite mesmerising from beginning to end, even though it is quite long. The opening scenes involving the apes doing their thing, then going ape-crap over the monolith is superb. The ape suits were very well done, better than those in the original Planet of the Apes.


Behind the scenes photo.

Then there was the spaceship and it’s revolving set, very impressive for a film made 50 years ago. You can read about how it was done here, along with the zero gravity shots.

The highlight of the film though is the last thirty minutes where the astronaut (played by Keir Dullea, now 81), goes on a trippy trip through space and time to a very nicely furnished room, then is reborn as a giant baby in a bubble the size of Earth. What this is all about is purposely not explained in the film, Stanley Kubrick wanted people to come up with their own theories as to what it is all about. The book, by Arthur C. Clark, one of my fave Sci-Fi writers, was a little more clear about this apparently. I have read the book but I forget how the ending went now…must read it again.

I gave this nine out of ten in my last review, however I have decided that a perfect ten is in order this time as I cannot think of any space film that is better than this, there are certainly none anywhere near as majestic.

Date watched: May 29th
Score: 10/10
Film count 2018: 36

A DECADE UNDER THE INFLUENCE

I last watched this back in 2012, but decided to watch it again as it is a very good documentary about movie-making.

It starts off in the late sixties when films were made big and starred The Kirkster amongst others, then moves onto the seventies when new directors started experimenting and made films that were about real people and real life. By the end of the seventies they were making films like Star Wars and Jaws, pure escapism and more uplifting. It was quite a decade really.

There are interviews with people like Francis Ford Coppola, Bruce Dern, Julie Christie, Roger Corman, Sydney Pollack, Peter Bogdanovich, and Dennis Hopper.

I have seen many of the films mentioned, but there are just as many that I have not seen, so I am going to seek some of them out.

A very good watch if you like a bit of film history.

Date watched: February 8th
Score: 9/10
Film count 2018: 11

The Day of the Triffids

I read the book by John Wyndham a very long time ago, but I remember enjoying it thoroughly. So when I saw this film on YouTube I just had to give it a watch.

I actually don’t remember the story well, and as it turns out the film adaption is very different to the book, almost to the point of being a whole new story.

As a film though it was reasonably entertaining and very 1960’s horror. The Triffids were well done although they are quite different to the book version. The acting was fine I suppose, also very 60’s, and one actress had an excellent scream of terror.

The ending was a bit of a cop-out though. Like War of the Worlds a simple way to kill the Triffids was found, they melt when sprayed with seawater (the book does not find a way of killing the Triffids).

I must read the book again actually.

Date watched: November 24th
Score: 7/10
Film count 2017: 128