Alphaville: French Pseudo-Noir Dystopian Science Fiction

Onward we go to Alphaville, the 1965 Jean-Luc Godard film starring American ex-pat Eddie Constantine.  It's a sort of pseudo-noir science fiction combination, and you can see its influences clearly in films like Blade Runner.  It clocks in at #553 on the TSPDT list.

Full Disclosure: I've never seen Alphaville.  In fact, I'd never even heard of Alphaville until I started this list.  But I like me a good dystopian thriller, so I have high hopes.

Ivan Johnson (super secret real name: Lemmy Caution) is an American detective who makes the journey to Alphaville, a technologically advanced society that is ruled by computers.  In this society, emotions, particularly those related to love and self-expression, are punishable by execution.

Lemmy is posing as a journalist when he meets Natacha von Braun, the daughter of Alphaville's founder.  He falls in love with her, despite the fact that she does not seem to understand the concepts of love or conscience.

During an interrogation, Lemmy beings to learn more about the system that rules over Alphaville.  Logic is the basis of everything, and those who act out of emotion are severely punished.  Dissenters are either executed or brainwashed and sent to cause uprisings in the Outlands.  However, they decide not to harm Lemmy at present, because he is a highly intelligent man with intimate knowledge of the Outlands, and could therefore be useful.  So for the time being, they let him go.

And he begins to rub off on Natacha, who starts to think critically rather than passively accepting everything (seemingly without realizing that she's doing it).  After a little prodding from Lemmy, she remembers her life before Alphaville, that she was born in New York.  And with a book of poetry and Lemmy's love, she begins to embark on a journey of emotional enlightenment.

Unfortunately, he is arrested by the master computer.  But he still has a few tricks up his sleeve...or, to be more accurate, a pistol.  So Lemmy shoots his way out of Alpha 60 and sets out to find Professor von Braun, the creator of Alphaville.  When the Professor refuses to give up and return to the Outlands, he is killed.  Lemmy then destroys Alpha 60 by confusing it with poetry (seriously?  That's all it takes?) and escapes with his girl, who finally tells him that she loves him.  Not bad for a day's work.

Random Musings:

  • So when they want to kill someone, they shoot them so that they'll fall into a swimming pool, and then send the synchronized swimmers out for a brief performance?  That's just insane on the face of it.  What possible purpose could that serve to anyone?

  • I so dearly hate the computer voice.  It makes me want to lash out irrationally at strangers and tear my hair out.  Seriously.  I can't remember the last time I heard something I hated more (although it may have been Ke$ha).  It sounds like those annoying little boys who insist on burping out entire sentences.

  • I love the imagery of Natacha's pupils dilating as she "sees the light".  That's just clever.

  • It's remarkable how much this advanced, futuristic society looks exactly like 1965 Paris.  Weird.

  • For the first 15 minutes or so of the movie, I was so confused about how this character was supposed to be American when he speaks perfect French.  "In the future, has France invaded America?" I pondered.  Is it sad that that scenario seemed more likely to me than the fact that an American man just might happen to be fluent in French?

So that's Alphaville.  This is one of those movies that's meaningful not because of what it is, but because of what it will inspire.  You can see Alphaville's influence all over the next 40 or so years of science fiction, which automatically makes it something special.  That being said, do I think it's that great of a movie?  No.  It's good, and I liked it, but I don't think it's great.  Sorry to all you Alphaville enthusiasts out there.  I wish that they had spent more time dealing with the people affected by the emotion laws, rather than just this one secret agent who didn't really do much until the last fifteen minutes of the movie.  It touched on some really powerful ideas, but I think just sort of glazed over them with a bunch of French poetry instead of really dealing with the emotional content.  But that's just me.

Well, thanks for reading!  Check back tomorrow for Casablanca!

Want to know more about the Top 1000 List?  Check it out and see if your favorites are here! They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?

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