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Entry updated 13 June 2022. Tagged: Film.

Film (1965; vt Une Étrange Aventure de Lemmy Caution). Pathé-contemporary/Chaumiane-Film Studio. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Written by Godard and Paul Éluard. Cast includes Eddie Constantine, Anna Karina, Akim Tamiroff and Howard Vernon. 100 minutes. Black and white.

In this archetypal French New Wave film, intergalactic secret agent Lemmy Caution (Constantine) arrives at Alphaville – a City on a distant planet – to deal with Alpha 60, the sentient Computer used to impose conformity on the inhabitants. He succeeds, meeting the computer's logic with his own illogic (see also Paradox), and at the same time wins the affections of the daughter (Karina) of the city's ruler, Professor Leonard Nosferatu aka von Braun (Vernon), whose other name references Wernher von Braun. A typical Pulp-sf plot is transformed into an allegory of feeling versus Technology, the past versus the present: Alphaville itself is an undisguised (but selectively seen) Paris of the 1960s; Caution (a tough guy from the 1940s, hero or Antihero of many novels by UK thriller writer Peter Cheyney [1896-1951]) does not use a Spaceship to get there, but simply drives his own Ford car through "intersidereal space" – an ordinary road.

Alphaville is filmed in high contrast, deep shadows and glaring light. It is a not always accessible maze of allusions culled from a wide variety of sources: semantic theory, Jorge Luis Borges, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice (see Mythology), Hollywood B-movies, Comic books and pulp sf. The last of these, like the other components of Alphaville, is used by Godard as a means of playfully imaging philosophical debate. [JB/PN/DRL]

see also: Cinema.

further reading

  • Jean-Luc Godard. Alphaville (London: Lorrimer Films, 1966) [screenplay: pb/]


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