Alphaville Screen 9 articles

Alphaville

1965

Alphaville Poster
  • Cavalier: Manny Farber
    January 1966 | Farber on Film | (pp. 554-555)

    The fear of open, natural behavior makes his film one that is disinclined to use closeups, which nevertheless eventually over-run, embalm the film. In any setup... bodies seem to fade, while the faces, which may not even be in the shot, become a swelling, fronted imported.

  • The view of technology as inherently evil is too facile for Godard's fine, paradoxical mind, and the film as a whole is light on insight. But it remains an outstanding example of the filmmaker's power to transform an environment through the selection of detail: everything in it is familiar, but nothing is recognizable.

  • There is an exhilarating release in many of the images and camera movements because of Godard’s uncanny ability to evoke privileged moments from many movies of the past.

  • What really matters is the atmosphere, rife with ominous shadows (courtesy ace DP Raoul Coutard, turning Paris circa 1965 into an ultra-convincing dystopia) and populated by those two quintessential Godard elements: girls and guns.

  • A love letter to expressionism and pulp—which like every Godardian love letter contains no small amount of criticism—ALPHAVILLE is alternatively off-putting in its esotericism and accessible in its broad and familiar genre gestures; and its groundbreaking work demonstrating that the future is always located just a little bit behind us cannot be undervalued.

  • A savvy, if masterfully economical recruitment of form as receptacle for philosophical inquiry, Godard nevertheless refined a lexicon for subsequent big-budgeted, high-concept offspring (Soylent Green, Blade Runner, The Matrix, 2001: A Space Odyssey). It’s only fitting then that in its offhanded, thrift-store approach Alphaville is still cooler, stranger, and more prescient than them all.

  • ...Looking at [Alphaville] again, it’s ever more clearly a genre-art-film lab explosion: equal parts referential film noir, dystopian sci-fi, Godardian self-referentiality, unstable espionage thriller, genre satire, Melvillian-Beckettian existentialism, meditation on proto-semiotic “rupture,” and so on. Still, the miraculous thing about Alphaville is how it mediates the tension between its radical postmod aesthetic approach and its genre elements.

  • Alphaville – the product of this debate – is a deeply stylish and alluring film which flatters the viewer’s taste and appreciation for modern design; we are reminded of Anna Karina’s descent, wearing a chic black fur-trimmed robe, down a spiralling marble staircase; the echoing white, gold, and glass auditorium of a central hotel. We see the presence of cars, radios, televisions, screens, as if Godard had constructed the mise-en-scene from a collage of marketing brochures and advertising copy.

  • Godard’s film has the makings of a retro classic—with elements of noir and a trench coat-sporting, Bogartesque Eddie Constantine as its lead, detective Lemmy Caution—but it’s set in a dystopian future run by a tyrannical machine called Alpha 60. Though this is a science-fiction film, Godard isn’t interested in flashy special effects, instead playing in the dramatic light and shadows captured by the late, great cinematographer Raoul Coutard.

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