John A. Douglas

Living Passionately In the World of the Moving Image

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DVD REVIEW: Alphaville

April 26th, 2009 · No Comments · Resurrected Films

ALPHAVILLE (1965), directed and written by Jean-Luc Godard; produced by Andre Michelin; director of photography, Raoul Coutard; edited by Agnes Guillemot; production design by Pierre Guffroy; music by Paul Misraki.
Lemmy Caution————–Eddie Constantine
Natasha von Braun———-Anna Karina
Henry Dickson————–Akim Tamiroff

Once upon a time there was a series of low budget French films that featured a character named Lemmy Caution. Lemmy who was played by Eddie Constantine, an American actor who, living in France, acted primarily in French films. The character Lemmy Caution was a man involved in intrigue in the same way that James Bond was involved in intrigue except that Lemmy got there first. However, in spite of Lemmy’s head start James Bond soon became the movie spy of choice by most people.

But something happened to Lemmy Caution that some film enthusiasts would say trumped the success of James Bond. For one film only Lemmy Caution and actor Eddie Constantine found themselves in a story written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard, the darling of the French New Wave. Godard was breaking a lot of the rules concerning the grammar of motion pictures and it confused a lot of people. So that you understand the significance of this teaming of Caution, Constantine and Godard, it would be like James Bond and Sean Connery teaming up with Andy Warhol as the writer/director of a spy thriller.

What came out of the Caution/Constantine/Godard collaboration is a film called “Alphaville” which was released in 1965. “Alphaville” contains elements of spy films, science fiction films, film noir and of course New Wave. In “Alphaville” Lemmy finds himself in the future and on another planet. Not bothered by details, Godard shoots the film in Paris and does nothing to make it look like anywhere but Paris as it was when the film was shot.

Lemmy has been sent to this particular part of the galaxy to find a Dr. Von Braun and he is to bring him back dead or alive. The hunt takes him into strange places inhabited by strange people. He sorts a lot of it out with a .45 automatic as did his hardboiled literary predecessors.

If you like movies that spell everything out for you then this film will be torment. But if you enjoy movies that go in unpredictable directions and that often seem to leave things out allowing the audience to fill things in for itself, then this is a movie for you. Plus ”Alphaville” is filled with images that will linger in your mind for many a moon in whatever galaxy you live in.


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