Monday, July 17, 2006



Dir: Jean-Luc Godard (Breathless; A Woman is a Woman; Masculine-Feminine; Week-End)

I believe this was my first Godard film, but I Just Saw's own Ron has praised him before me. He finds Godard difficult, clearly brilliant but opaque. Alphaville may be exhibit A in that reading, a movie with a lot going on but stubbornly unwilling to open itself up to interpretation.

Alphaville is a futuristic technocracy, increasingly ruled by a genocidal computer that turns the city's population into unfeeling robots themselves. A secret agent from abroad arrives to retrieve that computer's programmer. Half noir, half science fiction, the film is at one level right out of the series of minimalist French detective films that I have been watching lately. On the other hand, it often feels like a script of the original Star Trek. Think of the scene is South Park when the home schooled girl is asked out to the dance.

The movie is at its best when it is highly poetic. Alpha 60 is certainly the most learned maniacal computer ever filmed, philosophically self aware and dedicated to a peculiar noramtive vision of existence. Godard does not really address the AI question, but this computer is something more than machine. The hard boiled detective stuff is always welcome, and the dark sexuality of it is well done here.

There were some things that rubbed me the wrong way, though. I know it's petty, but the voice of Alpha 60 continually reminded me of someone who was burping their way through the alphabet (Alpha 60 beers maybe?). More seriously, I never understood exactly why people followed the oppressive rules either. Peple seemed aware of the outside, even people who immigrated into Alphaville towed the line. Small violations seemed to go unpunished. What is the appeal of the emotionless way of life?

But the movie works as a series of aphorisms and puzzles. Our hero, Lemmy Caution, in another Star Trek move, gives the computer a philosophical puzzle that it cannot solve in order to defeat it. Often times, characters speak lines that drip with poetry and insight. Alphaville is in that class of reflective science fiction like 2001 or Solaris, using the future to make very lofty proclamations about the human condition. I can dig that sort of stuff, absolutely.

Very hard movie to blog. I didn't hate it, but I didn't really enjoy myself either. It's like reading high theory; good for you, but a real workout. No wonder Ron says the academic film scholars love Godard!



Blogger ronvon2 noted on 7/25/2006 09:40:00 AM that...

As luck would have it, Alphaville was my first Godard film, too. And I praise him in the sense that he is an important and influential director. As for "enjoying" his movies, that is another story.

The play on words is a bit of a stretch, but nonetheless appreciated.