Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (1965)

France, Italy, 1965
99m, 2600 metres/8820 ft
35mm film, black and white, 1.66:1
mono, French
Reviewed at The EOFFTV Review

A French/Italian science fiction film directed by Jean-Luc Godard.

Plot Summary

American private detective Lemmy Caution travels to the futuristic city of Alphaville, possibly on another planet. He crosses swords with the city’s ruler, the scientist Von Braun, who has banned all forms of love and self-expression.

Credits

* = uncredited

Crew
Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard
© not given on screen
André Michelin Paris, Filmstudio Rome present the ninth film by Jean-Luc Godard. Athos Films *, Chaumiane *, Filmstudio *
Produced by: André Michelin *
Written by: Jean-Luc Godard *
Novel: La capitale de la douleur by Paul Éluard *
Photographed on Ilford HPS by: Raoul Coutard
Edited on Moritone by: Agnès Guillemot
With the Music of: Paul Misraki
Sound: René Levert *
Production Designer: Pierre Guffroy

Cast
Eddie Constantine (Lemmy Caution)
Anna Karina (Natacha Von Braun)
Akim Tamiroff (Henri Dickson)
Jean-Louis Comolli [Professor Jeckell] *
Michel Delahaye [Von Braun’s assistant] *
Jean-André Fieschi [Professor Heckell] *
Christa Lang *
Jean-Pierre Léaud *
László Szabó [chief engineer] *
Howard Vernon [Professor Leonard Nosferatu aka Von Braun] *

Alternative Titles

Agente Lemmy Caution, missione Alphaville – Italian title
Alphaville, a Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution
Alphaville, a Strange Case of Lemmy Caution
Alphaville, un mundo alucinante – Argentinian title
Lemmy Caution – piru mieheksi – Finnish title
Lemmy Caution gegen Alpha 60 – West German title
Lemmy contra Alphaville – Spanish title
Tarzan Vs. IBM

See also
Allemagne 90 neuf zéro (1991)

Remake
Megaville (1990)

Press

1965
Motion Picture Herald vol.234 no.10 (24 Nov 1965) p.410
Computers and scientists beware! Jean-Luc Godard has written and directed a wildly satirical science fiction tale exposing both breeds as a menace to the human race. […] “Alphaville” has a way out approach to its subject. Neither the characters or events are real, and there is a surrealistic tone to all the proceedings, but the film manages to hold the viewer’s attention and project him into a world of nightmares. At the same time, it is constantly amusing and occasionally hilarious. […] “Alphaville” will be of particular interest to art film fans. With a chilling theme and an imaginative presentation, the film should receive considerable comment among steady filmgoers of the foreign film circuit. – from a review by Sy Oshinsky

The Film Daily vol.127 no.84 (29 Oct 1965) p.6
Offering both a science-fiction satire version of a spy thriller, and a contemporary “theme” treatment within the same film, Jean-Luc Godard has again created a motion picture worthy of attention. […] Godard’s direction isolates his characters from any sense of reality, and Constantine and Karina react to their environment and each other in walk-through fashion as though glass were between them. Despite this lack of emotional involvement, however, Godard’s themes, all important in the film, come across with impact. Use of symbolism is in its most obvious form and clearly portrays the idea that life, as we continue to live it, is leading us into a heartless existence that only emotions such as love can save us from.” […] The change from satire to dead-earnestness in mid-stream might throw some viewers as to what’s happening moment by moment, but the ultimate statement is always there. – from a review by Allan C. Lobsenz

1966
The Daily Cinema no.9193 (18 Mar 1966) p.8
Directed by France’s favoured Jean-Luc Godard, this effort wraps up much humane thinking in a jazzy fantasy-thriller packaging. But the net result appears laboured and, heaven forbid, rather dull. There are plenty of shiversome moments in Alphaville, but not much menace. The awfulness of the unknowing lives led by the inhabitants is deadened by the lack of interest in the characters. […] Still, the subject’s as chic as could be and its parentage is bound to appeal to the art house connoisseurs. – from a review by M.H.

Film Quarterly vol.20 no.1 (Autumn 1966) pp.48-51
The importance of Alphaville is defined not by our conception of its themes, but by the fact that it exists, has life, occupies its own kind of artistic space. […] Important as its intellectual content may be, I think the film’s message is not its Message but the structure of its images. For the message of Alphaville is negative, an attack on the over-organise, hyper-intellectual world of modern man. But the structure of its images – the seemingly erratic development of a number of gratuitous visual themes – is the very poetry that Godard, speaking through Lemmy Caution, offers as Alphavilles salvation. Each member of the audience has its own Alpha 60 in operation when he sits through a movie, and it is into this computer that Godard feeds a visual poetry designed to destroy it. […] Alphaville is both portrait and prescription. What Godard has given cannot yet be analysed because we still have to find words that offer some emotional equivalent to his images. These words do not yet exist because verbal formulations are always the last to arise when new states of consciousness are formed. For this same reason the essence of Alphaville is not something of which I can really speak. I can describe, I can reflect, but I cannot explain. In a sense it’s a film that’s immune to the normal approaches of film criticism, and perhaps the best thing to do is to leave it alone. Whatever one may say about it, the crucial fact is that it exists. It is something to be seen and experienced, but only incidentally discussed. Let’s leave further discussion to the people of Alphaville. – from a review by John Thomas

1986
Radio Times vol.251 no.3288 (29 November 1986) p.30
Visually exciting but somewhat arid – from a review by Geoff Brown

Radio Times vol.251 no.3288 (29 November 1986) p.30
“[A] dazzling combination of science-fiction mythology, 60s pop-art fantasy and hard boiled thriller, with a deep vein of romanticism rarely made so explicit in [Godard’s] extraordinarily prolific career. […] [T]he film’s visual style has become the model for a thousand commercials and pop videos. By the mid-60s Godard had established his own distinctive method of film-making using readily available locations and light sources. […] Godard’s starkly monochrome film has a pulp poetry of its own. Language is bereft of words like ‘conscience’ and ‘tenderness’ Love is forbidden. Sex and death have been reduced to mechanical rituals. […] In Detective, Godard’s last completed film, the director again limited himself to Paris, gathering together a starry cast […] in a fin de siècle hotel. The inspiration is the kind of murder myetry found in the popular série noire thrillers. And despite the multiplicity of jokes, his characters strive for that same ‘tenderness’ that was banned in Alphaville. Twenty years on, Godard seems to suggest, the world is still in danger of losing its soul.” – from an illustrated review (In the picture) by David Thompson

1994
Empire no.61 (July 1994) p.46
“What distinguishes the movie, apart from its conceptual brio, is its formal daring. Shot mainly in corridors, car interiors, staircases and hotel rooms, and cut to an arbitrary “thriller” score which signals the importance of the most banal events – like getting out of an elevator – it dispenses with the conventions of narrative and instead offers up a series of abstract, barely coded events. […] The central metaphor for Godard’s vision of complete control – Alpha 60, the god-like computer with the throaty voice-over and flashing spot-light – still has a sinister aura, but unfortunately the rest of the technology on display looks comically bulky rather than creepily paranoid. As a darkside view of the modern city of the 60s, Alphaville is a triumph. As a projection of the future, it’s way off the mark.” – from a review by Steve Beard

References

Periodicals

  • Cahiers du Cinéma no.168 (July 1965) p.86 (France) – credits, review (A rebours? by Jean-Louis Comolli
  • Cahiers du Cinéma no.176 (March 1966) p.57 – review reprinted from no.168 (July 1965)
  • Chaplin no.57 (October 1965) p.307 (Sweden) – article
  • CineAction! no.80 (2010) pp.60-66 (Canada) – illustrated article (The Language of Emotion in Godard’s Films by Anuja Madan)
  • Cinéaste vol.22 no.1 (April 1996) p.52 – credits, review (by Royal S. Brown)
  • Cineforum no.49 (November 1965) p.755 (Italy) – article
  • Cinéma no.97 (June 1965) p.115 – review
  • Cinema Nuovo vol.18 no.178 (November/December 1965) p.447 – review
  • La Cinématographie Française no.2114 (15 May 1965) p.18 – review
  • The Daily Cinema no.9193 (18 March 1966) p.8 – review
  • Empire no.61 (July 1994) p.46 – illustrated review (by Steve Beard)
  • Esprit no.9 (September 1965) – article (La Perte du langage by Marie-Claire Ropars-Wuilleumier)
  • Film vol.20 no.8 (21 February 1965) p.17 – review
  • Filmcritica no.159/160 (August/September 1965) p.449 – script extracts
  • Film Criticism vol.33 no.1 (Autumn 2008) pp.45-63 – illustrated review (Tarzan vs IBM: Humans and Computers in Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville by Andrew Utterson)
  • The Film Daily vol.127 no.84 (29 October 1965) p.6 – review
  • Film-Echo/Filmwoche no.53/54 (9 July 1965) p.11 – review
  • Le Film Francais no.1096 (21 May 1965) p.15 – review
  • Film Quarterly vol.20 no.1 (Autumn 1966) p.48 – review
  • Filmkritik no.9 (September 1965) p.507 – review
  • Image et Son no.233 (1969) pp.1-5 – article
  • Jeune Cinéma no.8 (June/July 1965) p.33 – review
  • Kine Weekly no.3051 (24 March 1966) p.17 – review
  • The Listener vol.116 no.2988 (27 November 1986) p.32 – review
  • The Listener vol.122 no.3124 (27 July 1989) p.32 – review
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.33 no.388 (May 1966) p.70 – credits, review
  • Motion Picture Herald vol.234 no.10 (24 November 1965) p.410 – review
  • Radio Times vol.251 no.3288 (29 November 1986) p.30 – review (by Geoff Brown); illustrated review (In the picture by David Thompson)
  • Sight & Sound vol.34 no.4 (Autumn 1965) p.162 – review
  • Sight & Sound vol.47 no.1 (Winter 1977/1978) pp.46-49 – article
  • Sight & Sound vol.4 no.4 (April 1994) p.61 – video note
  • Sight & Sound vol.4 no.7 (July 1994) p.10-12 – illustrated article (It All Happened In Paris by Chris Darke)
  • Sight & Sound vol.10 no.6 (June 2000) p.62 – video review (Video reviews: retail by Geoffrey Macnab)
  • Sight & Sound vol.18 n1 January 2008 p.11 – illustrated article (Rushes: Fistful of five: Dystopias)
  • Télérama no.2523 (20 May 1998) p.136 (France) – credits, review (by N.M.)
  • Variety 5 May 1965 – credits, review
  • Vertigo vol.2 no.8 (Spring/Summer) 2005 p.8-10 – illustrated article (Alphaville exists by Chris Darke)
  • Video Watchdog Special Edition no.1 pp.6-7 – review
  • Wide Angle vol.1 no.3 (1976) pp.17-19 – illustrated article (Loss of language by Marie-Claire Ropars-Wuilleumier, translated by Dorthea Hoekzema)

Books

  • Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction by Phil Hardy (ed). p.235-236 – illustrated credits, review
  • BFI Screen Guides: 100 Science Fiction Films by Barry Keith Grant pp.9-10 – illustrated credits, review
  • Elliot’s Guide to Films on Video p.20 – credits, review
  • The Espionage Filmography: United States Releases, 1898 through 1999 by Paul Mavis pp.11-12 – credits, review
  • Feature Films, 1960-1969: A Filmography of English-language and Major Foreign-language United States Releases by Harris M. Lentz, III pp.10-11 – credits, synopsis
  • French Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Pulp Fiction: A Guide to Cinema, Television, Radio, Animation, Comic Books and Literature from the Middle Ages to the Present by Jean-Marc L’Officier and Randy L’Officier pp.16-17 – illustrated credits
  • Hoffman’s Guide to SF, Horror and Fantasy Movies 1991-1992 p.20 – credits, review
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films: A Checklist by Donald C. Willis p.21 – credits
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films IV by Donald C. Willis p.12 – credits
  • Kine & TV Year Book 1968 p.109 – credits
  • The Liverpool Companion to World Science Fiction Film by Sonja Fritsche (ed.) pp.138-156 – article (Looking for French Science Fiction Cinema by Daniel Tron)
  • Movies of the 60s by Jürgen Müller pp.310-315 – illustrated review (by JH [Jörn Hetebrügge])
  • Reference Guide to Fantastic Films by Walt Lee p.10 – credits
  • The Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Handbook by Alan Frank p.11 – credits, review
  • Science Fiction in the Movies: An A-Z by Roy Pickard p.2 – credits, note
  • Sixties Shockers by Mark Clark and Bryan Senn p.429 – credits