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

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Alphaville

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

Eddie Constantine is Lemmy Caution (a popular TV character in France during the 50s 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 it 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 minimalist, the parallel between the totalitarian future and the now-past present being no less relevant today. Godard uses all manner of visual and aural devices including a fine score by score by Paul Misraki and evocative photography by Raoul Coutard to brilliantly suggest his vision of soulless modern society.

FYI: Jacques Tati would essay a more satirical approach to modern society with Playtime.

 

 

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