Alphaville


RE: Alphaville - I thought that Godard thought he was doing something clever, mainly deconstructing the sci-fi/dystopia genre,* with this film, but this experiment was doomed to fail since standard "good" sci-fi is already judged by how it deconstructs the present. Sci-Fi is already inherently a deconstructivist genre, it pulls apart the unstable oppositions that underlie modern politics or psychology or what have you. It's already a critique of something, and to perform a critique of a critique on something is getting into this icky, masturbatory recursive territory that's unpleasant and frankly boring to watch. And I'm going to shoot myself in the head if I use "deconstructivist" like that again.

Even worse, Godard seems to want to play it both ways, borrowing the tropes/plot of Sci-Fi wholesale but then only amping the ludicrousness of the dialogue ("light years more powerful" ) and adding in atrocious sound design in order to highlight the "this is a burlesque" aspect of the film. Which would be fine, if it was a romp, but it wasn't. For the first 5 minutes or so when Lemmy Caution is shooting the random interlopers in his hotel, I was kind of enjoying it on a "Kill Bill"* level, but then with the first of a series of jarring shifts in tone (if we wouldn't accept that from a lesser director, why should we accept it from Godard?) we get the sense that Godard is also trying to make a serious point - but the same "serious" point that science fiction ALWAYS makes - that automation and cybernetics and central planning** (which are the future, if they're not *GASP* already here!) are BAD, dude, harmful to artists, lovers, children and other living things. I guess when a film or a novel is absurd I also want it to be funny - or at the very least, somehow enlightening. I'd prefer funny though.

This ludditism drags along its siamese twin (they share a brain, natch), the " (straight-white-monogamous**) love-conquers-all" plot. Now, while it would probably be impossible to resist the charms of Anna Karina, and indeed I could perhaps be persuaded by her charms to pit myself against your average mid-sized totalitarian state, I don't think for one minute that my temporary infatuation is going to put a dent in a gurgling, galaxy-spanning supercomputer and it's countless minions. As the philosopher says, "They say that nothing last forever, so what makes, what makes, love the exception?" Gah! I hate this device, wherever it appears, and I'm surprised that Godard doesn't try to subvert it, really. It's tempting to take the love story as wholly ironic - just a piece lifted out of a "real" sci-fi movie and dropped in here without a wink, but as the Andrew Sarris essay (which I didn't read before I saw the film) you link shows, some sophisticated people who loved the film take it straight. (and why does she say "je vous aime" instead of "je t'aime"? Is that a sophisticated pun about how her love will HEAL US ALL or am I just being obtuse?)

We can be thankful least there's no "chosen one" in this film, really, but beyond that, aside from some great camera work by Coutard (and, if you please - who is more responsible for the *look* of these films - Godard or Coutard or some third brain between them?) and Anna Karina's outfits there's not much to recommend about this film. I'm willing to admit, as always, that I am Wrong, but it would take some pretty steep convincing to get me to watch the film again. I think he might not just have a feel for the genre

*(and offering us a pastiche of other related genres - hardboiled detective fiction, in particular. However, those two genres seem to be inseperable to me, already, but maybe that's because my exposure to them is limited to the most successful works of the late 70s/early 80s (PK Dick, Neuromancer, Bladerunner, etc.) Perhaps when Godard did it was Fresh.)

**(and incidentally, it's really, really horrible that I saw Tarantino movies before Godard because there's ALWAYS something in Godard that reminds me of Tarantino, which is precisely backwards but sometimes I think QT might have done some things better than G (obviously he wouldn't hae done it at all if there weren't Godard) and I bet he could make a kick-ass Alphaville - in fact, that's EXACTLY what I want to see from QT next.)

*** Interestingly, Metropolis (which I coincidentally watched just prior to Alphaville) offers a non-luddite (though thoroughly capitalist-apologist) take on the same issue, which makes it even more an anomaly. There's still a love conquers all subtext though, though in this film strangely communitarian - "The Head and Hands must be mediated by the Heart")

**** though, you know, I don't object to that kind. I just have to point it out to be cool.

Number One Hater
[see also John Currin]