Alphaville (1965) | Jean-Luc Godard’s seminal future noir is a blast from the past

Alphaville (1965)Fusing George Orwell’s 1984, a plot from 1950s pulp fiction, references from 1930s serials, FW Murnau’s Nosferatu, Fritz Lang’s Dr Mabuse, and Jean Cocteau’s Orphee, the 1965 monochrome future noir Alphaville is one of Jean-Luc Godard’s most idiosyncratic and inventive films, yet also one of his more accessiable ones.

Having appeared as novelist Peter Cheyney’s private eye Lemmy Caution in a series of French films in the 1950s and 1960s, US actor Eddie Constantine reprises his screen persona in this futuristic homage, which has been released as part of StudioCanal’s Jean-Luc Godard The Essential Blu-ray Collection.

When fellow secret agent Henri Dixon (Akim Tamiroff) disappears, Lemmy Caution sets out to the über-modernist city of Alphaville. His mission: to locate his old pal; destroy the sentient Alpha 60 computer, which is holding the city under totalitarian control; and apprehend its creator, Professor von Braun (Howard Vernon). With the assistance of von Braun’s programmer daughter Natacha (Anna Karina), can Lemmy rage against the machine or will he be assimilated like the rest of Alphaville’s denizens?

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Winner of the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival in 1965, Alphaville has become one of those modern film classics that’s on every world cinema fans hit list. While not a sci-fi in the strictest sense, it’s truly inspired, helped greatly by the dazzling stylistic images of 1960s Paris that evokes the future (mainly brutalist architecture of glass and steel decked out in modernist decor) and pays homage to film noir (with its starkly-lit shots of seedy hotels and Paris’ périphérique); while Godard’s underlying themes of conformity versus individualism continue to resonant. And bringing it all together is the thunderously dramatic score and the performances of the two leads. A deadpan Constantine makes for an ideal dour, grizzled detective that’s seen better days (and the fact he’s not a good actor just emphasises Godard’s playful approach), while Karina oozes a coldly ethereal charm as the programmer on the path to enlightenment.

Godard The Essential Collection

 

Alphaville (Cert PG, 95min) is available on StudioCanal’s Jean-Luc Godard The Essential Blu-ray Collection five-disc box set alongside Breathless, Le Mépris, Pierrot Le Fou, and Une Femme est Une Femme.

The special features on this release include a candid interview with Anna Karina; an introduction by Colin McCabe; poster gallery and a trailer.

Jean-Luc Godard is also being honoured in a retrospective at the BFI Southbank in London until March 2016. Click here for details.

 

 

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About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on February 2, 2016, in Classic World Cinema, Must See, Must See, Sci-Fi, World Cinema and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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