Alphaville

dir. Jean-Luc Godard

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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Hard-boiled detective Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) takes the interstellar highway to a dystopian metropolis ruled by an all-powerful supercomputer, in Jean-Luc Godard's widely influential futuristic thriller.

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In Godard's futuristic thriller — "the most influential movie of that genre next to Kubrick's 2001" (Armond White) — hard-boiled detective Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) takes the interstellar highway to the dystopian metropolis of Alphaville, which is ruled by a totalitarian scientist and his supercomputer Alpha 60. When Lemmy attempts to rescue one of the tyrant's robots (the luminous Anna Karina), the film turns into a moving allegory about the meaning of love and freedom. The first French sci-fi film since Chris Marker's La Jetée and a surprising commercial hit in France, the Orphée- and Metropolis-influenced Alphaville influenced many other directors in turn. (Aki Kaurismäki named his production company Villealfa in homage to Godard's film.) Godard's visual design brilliantly found the future in the present: the nocturnal, dehumanized settings were all derived from contemporary Paris, and "Alphaville" quickly entered everyday parlance as a signifier for everything sterile and soulless in modern life. "An outstanding example of the filmmaker's power to transform an environment through the selection of detail: everything in it is familiar, but nothing is recognizable" (Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader).