Entertainment » Movies


by Sam Cohen
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jul 16, 2019

To write about any of Jean-Luc Godard's films is to court our preconceptions of what cinema should look and feel like. With "Alphaville: A Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution," the French director's sci-fi contribution to the French New Wave, that statement holds doubly true. In an era where the emphasis was put on special effects to carry out futuristic nonsense, Godard used none and only shot on location in Paris. What you see is a vision rendered by what Godard already saw as futuristic: One where spiral glass staircases give way to cramped apartments and the main governing bodies have been replaced by a computer that wants to rid the world of human emotion. "Alphaville" may be an intoxicating visual feast, but it lacks the structure of greater JLG works.

American secret agent Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) is sent to the planet of Alphaville to find a missing person and to kill the inventor of the evil computer Alpha 60. During this secret mission, Lemmy is thrown into a world of seductresses and scientists that act weirder as the plot progresses. To crack the case, he'll have to crack why the citizens of Alphaville aren't displaying any emotion whatsoever.

At its heart, "Alphaville" is a film that wants to explore what it means to be human. It may be set in a fictional universe, but its emotional ties are about as human as humans get. Jean-Luc Godard fills the proceedings with oddities for Lemmy to face, like random assailants in his hotel room or mass executions of those that have shown public displays of emotion. Underneath all the oddities lies something despairing, which is definitely not out of step with Godard's oeuvre, but "Alphaville" is so full of visual and narrative notes that it becomes overwhelming.

Shot by Raoul Coutard - of "Jules and Jim" and "First Name: Carmen" fame - "Alphaville" isn't visually sumptuous as it is a constant war between black and white. White represents individualism and hope, while black represents oppression and the snuffing out of emotion. With the irreverent narrative given this kind of visual scheme, Godard is able to avoid the many pitfalls of low-budget science fiction filmmaking. And if he doesn't make it clear enough that he's not fond of the genre itself, know that the elements he deploys all kind of poke fun at other science fiction films.

With a gorgeous new 4K restoration and a host of extras to dig into, this new Blu-ray release of "Alphaville" by Kino Lorber has proven itself to be the definitive home video release of the film. Not only is there a great interview with Anna Karina included in the special features, but both original French and English version of the film are also included. Other special features include:

• Audio Commentary by Film Historian Tim Lucas
• Colin MacCabe Introduction
• Theatrical Trailer

Kino Lorber Blu-ray


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