Sunday, June 24, 2012

ALPHAVILLE (Jean-Luc Goddard, 1965, France)

This strange adventure of Lemmy Caution takes place in a vague undefined future, the citizens of this mysterious Technocracy branded and controlled by the master computer Alpha 60. Though built and designed by man, this electronic sentience has surpassed its creator and spread its virus throughout Alphaville…and beyond. All identity erased, emotions purged, individual expression violently repressed and dissenters executed. 

This prescient tale mirrors our modern world as we become willing slaves to omniscient faceless power, the masses controlled by revisionist history and the fear of a bleak foreboding future. Automatons living only in the moment with no link to experience, emotion, or wisdom, with no need to express their thoughts and attempt to understand the decaying world around them: art has become archaic, a needles psychological burden that is punishable by death. Lemmy’s camera captures static images, lives caught in the exact moment of the explosive flash, like shadow-people burned on the crumbling walls of Hiroshima, a virulent metaphor for this hopeless society. 

Goddard films this dystopian world in oblique and incongruent angles of glass and steel, making Paris seem like Fritz Lang’s cold alien landscape of METROPOLIS. He captures the future-noir feel that would years later influence BLADE RUNNER: Lemmy is a tough pistol packing gumshoe reflective of the classic Hollywood convention. This visual frisson creates an unsettling and timeless atmosphere that is increased by the bombastic and overwhelming score. The unblinking eye of Alpha 60 is a precursor to HAL, but here the computer’s voice is the deep guttural musings of destruction. 

After a few typical shootouts, Lemmy’s mission is finally complete when he destroys the computer with poetry: the internal language of human nature, of understanding our own identity, a viewpoint incomprehensible to this logical and infallible machine. Love does indeed conquer all. 

Final Grade: (B+)