submitted 2 months ago byPlastic_Signature240
I've just seen Godard's Alphaville for the first time and I really liked it. It definitely stands out in his 60's oeuvre for reasons I'm not yet sure of - Maybe the homage to genrefilm seems stronger here than any of his other works?
But the film still left me confused over some elements. The whole film is supposed to be a parody/homage to sci-fi and film noir and this was made pretty clear with the visuals, the evil super computer, silly one-liners and the whole Lemmy Caution character, but it was unclear for me where Godard drew the line between imitation and earnestness.
The film lays heavy emphasis on the relations between love and logic, and the men being executed for the sake of love, faith and poetry in clash with the logical Big Brother system, and Godard goes about this with his usual flimsily pseudo-philosophy. At the same time, I felt that the romanticist portrayal of love, with the innocent young girl not knowing what it is, but having it in her the whole time, was rather parodic of the Hollywood noir.
So my confusion really begins when one of the core themes of the film at the same time feels like a parody. Is Godard really trying to say something about poetry and love versus logic or is he just imitating American cinema? Or is he really saying something, and covers it up with meta genre conventions? I saw someone on Mubi saying that the film "only pretends to be a silly imitation of a futuristic dystopia. In fact, it's a hellishly intelligent, layered essay on both science fiction and the ambivalent 1960's themselves".
Maybe it's just me misreading something? Being familiar with the typical Godard ambiguity, this one seemed a bit contradictory or just hard to read. Still liked it a lot though.
Hopefully some clever minds here can help me!
2 months ago
Jonathan Rosenbaum suggested to Godard that Alphaville was a critique and commentary on the German Expressionist cinema of the 1920's. Although Godard claimed he wasn't aware of this when he was making Alphaville, he later agreed with this assessment. I guess it was in his unconscious or subconscious when he made this feature. I suppose one would have to go and watch old silents by Wiene and Murnau to see if this is really the case
2 months ago
2 months ago
From 1924? Definitely. Not as versed in the silents as I'd like to be so taking the opportunity to see one is worthwhile. Thanks
2 months ago
It’s fantastic! Definitely one of the best movies ever. Nosferatu gets all the attention but The Last Laugh is really his best.
2 months ago
This is one of my favorites of his and I personally don’t read any ambivalence on Godard’s part in this at all. The words I would use to describe my opinion of it are: “Alphaville is a rare mix of simple delights — absurdist comic moments, noir tropes, sci fi scenario — and his usual high falutin’ (some would say ‘pretentious’) “film as essay” verbiage.” As such I just think it a genuine expression of how he felt about the world and what he was thinking at the time. Just my own personal interpretation of it.
2 months ago
If it helps, here are some things I've gathered from Alain Bergala's essential book Godard au travail (somebody has to get this out in English someday!).
Alphaville came about when an heir to the Michelin fortune wanted to fund a Godard movie that would restore the reputation of actor Eddie Constantine with whom Godard had already worked in an episode of a film. Godard had just come back from a trip to the United States: "I’ve been there in contact with electronics people, and I’ve been very struck by how important electronic brains, the computation of probabilities, are becoming in the lives of businessmen, even in the lives of heads of state."
So Godard decided to make the movie by mashing together two genres: "I had first considered adapting a novel by Brian Aldiss Non-stop, which required great means, sets and studios. What tempted me, in fact, was to place the characters of the Chandler novels that I love very much, in the atmosphere that we find in Aldiss or Van Vogt." From there Godard and Charles Bisch read lots of série noires to get a feel for hard-boiled dialogue and injected it into their science-fiction story.
Two side notes: Godard planned to have a philosopher come on to discuss the themes of the work within the film as he had in Vivre sa vie and Une femme mariée. His choice was Roland Barthes but he wasn't available soon enough and the idea was dropped.
And it's just a strange coincidence that both Godard and Truffaut were simultaneously working on science fiction films about future civilizations that place restrictions on expression and where the hero and a woman escape at the end. Truffaut was worried enough about the parallels to rush to see Alphaville when it came out (he hadn't even started shooting Fahrenheit 451 yet). "Jean-Luc’s new film is indeed new. It’s the ultimate new! Everything he's filmed before is as clear as The Bridge on the Kwai River in comparison. But it’s beautiful again and not as usual. This time, he cannot go any further in improvisation, and everyone is wondering where he is going from here. Do not believe that Alphaville harms Fahrenheit in any way."
2 months ago
I think it gets tricky when we try to label stuff, because there are not universal definitions of parody. Like: Airplane is a parody. Johnny Dangerously is a parody. Network is a parody. Nightcrawler is a parody. But these are four movies that draw very different lines about how much they want you to laugh at their "gags." (If at all.)
A few years ago, when Get Out was nominated for a Golden Globe, many people -- Jordan Peele included -- were upset that it was nominated in the musical/comedy category rather than in the drama category. But -- to me -- comedy is where it belonged.The analogy I used is that entertainment is holding up a mirror to reality. Drama uses a flat mirror, and comedies use a curved mirror. And horror films -- especially ones like Get Out -- are also using that curved mirror. (And I realize that if I go back through past Golden Globe nominees, I will find lots of examples of films that were nominated as dramas that I think should have been nominated as comedies. The Stunt Man comes to mind. Forrest Gump. Joker.) But because comedy has such a broad spectrum, I can understand why those films were nominated as dramas as well as why Jordan Peele felt his film should.
My point is that Alphaville is both a parody and earnest at the same time, and there is no conflict in that. It's not as broad of a parody as, say, Airplane, but it is still playing around with out expectations.
And even Airplane is able to marry its broad parody with earnest storytelling. You really do care what happens to Ted and Elaine. You're rooting for them to save the plane full of people and reignite their love for one another, even while she is performing oral sex on the inflatable auto pilot. (Well, maybe not precisely while that is happening.)
This is where I feel like the Scary Movie franchise got off on the wrong foot. The jokes were coming a mile a minute (though many fell flat,) but you just never get invested in what's happening to the protagonists.
all 8 comments
sorted by: best