Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sci Fi Top 100, #94: "Alphaville" (1965)

Movie Stats:
Released 1965 (France)
French & Italian, in French (subtitles available)
Director - Jean-Luc Godard
Stars - Eddie Constantine, Anna Karina

Plot Summary:
Secret agent Lemmy Caution (Constantine) arrives in the futuristic city of Alphaville on a mission to assassinate the exiled scientist Von Braun (Howard Vernon) but things get complicated after he meets Von Braun’s daughter Natacha (Karina).

Violence; mild gore; blue language; heavily implied sexy times; brief female nudity (breasts and butt, although the breasts are in a magazine ad).

Bad Stuff:
What in the blue hell did I just watch? I spent a large portion of the film completely clueless as to what was going on. I don’t like that. I shouldn’t have to wait an hour for a movie to explain to me what happened in its thoroughly bewildering opening scene.

Women only exist in this film to be the object of desire of men. Gross.

I didn’t like Caution. He was rude, angry, quick to commit violence [SPOILER] He beats a guy up to steal his car and very intentionally runs over his head! It’s not shown on screen but geeeeezzzzzz [SPOILER], and generally just about the least, um, cautious secret agent I’ve ever seen.

If you have a seizure disorder, proceed with caution. Lots of random, flashing lights.

Good Stuff:
I liked the ideas of it, this exploration of what could go wrong if we were to rely too much on machines/logic. And it seems pretty French to imagine that a dystopian future would lack the concept of love.

There’s some unexpected humor, like the engineers who are named Heckell and Jeckell. Or, my favorite scene, where Caution passes a vending machine that says, “please insert coin” on it, he stops to do so, and gets a small box that says, “Merci,” which he then tosses away in disgust. That made me laugh out loud.

The weird camera angles were kind of fun.

The Verdict:
I think I may not be a fan of French New Wave cinema, because I thought this was very weird with few redeeming qualities. The DVD sleeve assured me that it’s a sci fi classic that informed many films to follow, but if this is the case, I have to wonder why I’ve never heard of it before. I think it must be its ideas that landed it on the list. It’s a thinking man’s sci fi, coming in after decades of sci fi films that were mostly about action and special effects. For myself, I have a difficult time getting over the 1960s weirdness of it, that sense I had during the whole thing that I would need to be on drugs to truly enjoy it. Definitely not to my taste.

I give it 2.5 stars.


Patricia said...

I've heard of this film, but know nothing about it. Although now I know that I won't be watching it. Maybe after all the Baby Boomers get to a certain age or die the rest of us can just agree that that 60s film thing was kind of "eh" and maybe we don't need to watch many of them.

balyien said...

Yeah, off the top of my head, I can't name a lot of 60s movies that I love. I get that they love the 60s because those were there teenaged/early 20s years, and in certain respects I feel that way about some 90s stuff, but definitely not about film. I think there are some great 90s movies for sure, but for the most part I think the decade had a lot of problems movie-wise (ridiculously goofy comedies, over sentimentality, bad dialogue, waayyyyyy too much saxophone music, etc.).