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

Alphaville

This is a 1965 film by Jean-Luc Godard about a city run by a dictator computer and a secret agent that comes from the ‘Outland’ to destroy the computer and it’s maker.

No actors that I am familiar with in this one but the main role is by an ex-pat American, his character name is ‘Lemmy Caution’, coolest film name ever maybe. The dictator is also a foreign actor.

It was all very low-tech really, they just used the streets of Paris. In one of the final scenes people in the whole city were supposed to be dying but in the background we could see peeps happily driving around in their cars, so roughly put together it seems. They used any fancy post-modern buildings that they find as futuristic sets. Apparently, when this film was made the modern buildings sprouting up in Paris were pretty far-out to most people. The acting was pretty sparse too, sometimes a bit amateurish but acceptable.

There were some bizarre scenes like the execution scene where people who did stuff which was against the law in this society, like crying or showing love, were stood next to an indoor pool, shot, and when they fell in the water a group of synchronised swimmers would swarm all over him and stab him to make sure he was plenty dead. Quite funny really. While this was happening the top brass of the leadership would stand around watching and clapping after the poor guy was killed. The synchronised swimmers would then do some nifty tricks in the water.

At first while I was watching this I was thinking it is not all that good but as it went on I started enjoying it, mostly for it’s silliness but also because it had some good ideas. I wouldn’t be surprised if this film was inspired by 1984, and in turn Terry Gilliam was inspired by this film for Brazil. Brazil is better though.

The voice of the computer overlord was bizarre, you can hear it in the second video below.

Interesting.

Score: 7/10
Date watched: July 12th
Film count 2012: 61