Alphaville

Alphaville ★★★★★

Alphaville, une Étrange Aventure de Lemmy Caution is one of the most misunderstood, yet undeniably influential precursors of the visionary cyberpunk genre with a brave mix of dystopian science fiction and film noir. It is still one of a handful of homages that Godard has made throughout his filmic career concerning American crime movies with a twist of dark humor; however, not even Godard fans are ready for this visceral journey of extreme egocentric cockiness, a grim portrayal of the human condition and an apocalyptic manifesto. It basically surpasses most of the top box-office science fiction films representing an abundant influence of technology over the rational way of thinking the humankind supposedly possesses. Even the French New Wave movement has been surpassed, leaving room for new forms of cinematic expression and a liberal depiction of open-minded ideas, ideals that stand for the morally correct necessities of any democratic society and for the consequences that any misconception of human error its inhabitants have may cause, resulting in totalitarian control and dictatorships, even of the proletariats. Revolution has come.

The popularized American private-eye agent Lemmy Caution, a character that appeared in a long series of kiss-kiss-bang-bang French films such as La Môme Vert de Gris (1953) and  Toi de Faire... Mignone (1963) is back, Godard style! This time, our character, once more played by Eddie Constantine, arrives to a futuristic city located on another planet where all forms of liberal expression and all human emotions have been suppressed and forbidden. Lemmy Caution tracks the inventor of the fascist computer, Alpha 60, and attempts to destroy it, restoring balance to the city. Director Jean-Luc Godard won the Golden Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, beating his strongest competition: Roman Polanski's Repulsion (1965).

Alphaville, une Étrange Aventure de Lemmy Caution implicitly does not elude the German Nazism and Communism. Logical thinking, mathematics and robotic behavior have replaced a man weeping for the death of his wife and a kid being happy when finally owning an ice-cream. Science and technology predominately govern the human race and the hidden references towards the WWII regime dwell under a stylistic vision of madness and male stereotypes, all of them congregated in Lemmy Caution's persona. Since he is the only hope of the city, a place that immediately makes the viewer to question whether it is really located on another galaxy or not, his character represents the most positive human qualities that can be found in a man and a woman despite his potential egocentrism, cold-blooded attitude and his only previously-established priority: to fulfill his mission and escaping from there alive. Rational thinking encounters a technocratic and fascist dictatorship originated from a machine.

Godard's particular perspective towards a society under a brutal and constant utopian control is set on a futuristic society, yet the filming locations were existing locations of Paris. He reportedly explains the lack of necessity of building a visually futuristic set when the future has finally arrived. This mirrors his prophetic capacity of predicting the industrialization rate and the rapid and constant growth of technology, thus replacing obsolete instrumentation and the incorrectly called "old-fashioned habits". This truth is seen today. The infrastructure of a city does not fully represent the technological improvement of an organized society, since it is the infrastructure the one that still holds its original purpose: to provide shelter. Computers are being improved, technology in schools is increasing, and wars are caused because of man's ambition to own the resources of a foreign nation, stupidly affecting the capital, the ultimate source of the exploitation and use of these resources. Alpha 60 is the father of his little son HAL 9000. It imposes his ways of thinking, brainwashing the minds of the inhabitants in the process, ideas that come from anti-Nationalism and the poetry of fantasist Jorge Luis Borges that attack the benign concept of Capitalism.

The name of the inventor of Alpha 60 has a symbolic connotation. He is known as the Professor von Braun, whereas his real name is Leonard Nosferatu. This references the German American rocket physicist Werner von Braun, the astronautics engineer who served as the director of NASA's Saturn V launch vehicle, the superbooster that would propel the Apollo spacecraft to the moon. The name of Leonard Nosferatu is a tribute to F.W. Murnau's masterful and legendary horror silent film Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922). Since both reference the German culture, it is natural that the final result of a German scientist's work would be a ruthless, totalitarian computer that would only lead to apocalyptic results, a machine that even can surpass the vast complexity of the human mind, something that not even the concept of android humanization will ever reach. The film is like the most chaotic representation of the vision that writer H.G. Wells ("The Time Machine") applied. A piece of literature that exterminated literature itself and poetry as clichéd and senseless means of dissemination of a person's mentality is a daring concept. Even so, cinema is not absent from such danger, since it is a form of expression as well. An inevitable anarchy starts to be born after "order" is challenged, and humans, who had been recently sent to other galaxies in order to start revolts and obtain more natural resources, are now a racer in danger of extinction.

Despite this pretentious thematic material, Godard is present throughout the movie's length. Abrupt silences, a strong voiceover and a constant narration of Alpha 60 explaining his composition and his vision towards religion, human relationships, the structure of time and the uselessness of oral communication is heard several times. Perhaps the film was not meant to be taken serious, it has been taken serious. It has been subject to multiple personal conclusions and several utopian versions around the world. Alphaville, une Étrange Aventure de Lemmy Caution is science fiction at its most mysterious. The camera work is noticeably different for the first time, smoothly traveling across building corridors and small departments, simulating a combination of Fritz Lang's M (1931), Jean Cocteau's Orphée (1950) and George Pal's The Time Machine (1960) that few directors would dare to construct. Can poetry really destroy technology? How, and to what extent? Underlying layers of wisdom rest beneath the words of wise men; perhaps even a more powerful knowledge than science and perfect equations. It is all relative, but it is not. It is all an illusion as well, but it is real.

99/100

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