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France 1965
Directed by
Jean-Luc Godard
98 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


Although probably difficult for non-Francophones to fully appreciate because of its wordiness and thus requiring much reading of its sub-titles, Godard's film is a compelling hybrid sci-fi, film noir set in a undated future (roughly 20000 that looks exactly like (and is) Paris circa 1965.

Expatriate American actor Eddie Constantine plays Lemmy Caution (a popular TV character in France during the 1950s played by Constantine) an undercover agent from "Les Pays Etrangeres" who has infiltrated Alphaville, a sterile totalitarian city run by the dictator Von Braun through a super-computer, Alpha 60. Caution bumps off the bad guys and saves Von Braun's beautiful wife, Natacha (Anna Karina, Godard's wife and muse) in the name of love.

Adapted from a novel by Peter Cheyney Godard's film  was radical in its day in its flouting of conventional expectations of cinematic narrative and still is a fascinating work that keeps one hypnotized despite the fact that it is so uncomfortably schematic. With a fine score by Paul Misraki, evocative photography by Raoul Coutard and a production design that makes good use of available Modernist interiors Godard brilliantly creates his vision of soulless modern society.

FYI: Godard's film would make an interesting double bill with George Lucas's THX-1138 (1971)which similarly has a couple escaping a future society in which love has been outlawed.  Jacques Tati would essay a more satirical approach to the Modernist vision of an ordered, logic-controlled society with Playtime (1967).




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