Saturday, March 17, 2007

Alphaville (1965)

Flashing lights, neon numbers and arrows make up the black and white world of Alphaville. Where electricity pylons feed into sub-stations and every scene opens with a flickering light.

Alphaville is a film noir set in the future, but deeply entrenched in an early to mid sixties bleak French city. Nothing is as it seems: loud suspense music booms out sporadically for no apparent reason and scenes open with someone doing something least expected. This is a film where all the rules of cinematography have been turned upside down.

Set in the future, Lemmy Caution has come from the Outlands to Alphaville to capture Dr. Von Braun, the inventor of the Death Ray. Dr. Von Braun is a member of the Nazi style SS organization which runs Alphaville, with the help of a super computer called Alpha-60. The computer’s deep croaking voice booms out sporadically in a surreal loudly over-dubbed way. No one is permitted to think logically, and those that do are executed in the most unusual way. People have now long forgotten what the word ‘why’ means, and are only permitted to you ‘because’.

Lemmy Caution, who along with a cheap instamatic camera, disguises himself as a reporter and tries to infiltrate the ‘organization’. On the way he befriends Dr. Von Braun’s beautiful daughter, one of the many seductive actresses in this unusual picture.

Made by Jean-Luc Godard, this is a very unusual movie where nothing is as it seems. In a small way it reminded me slightly of Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’, but Alphaville is much more down to earth in a world where everything on the surface is normal, aesthetic and drab. This could have been made on quite a small budget because Goddard only uses what he has around him and on that level too it’s incredibly imaginative, as well as surreal. This would be recommended to any student of film and lovers of atmospheric French movies, as well as those who enjoy breaking the rules of cinema.

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