I watched Godard’s Alphaville (1965) last night with my dad

I watched Alphaville last night with my dad. I am not familiar with the works of Godard other than À bout de souffle which I have watched twice in the last five years, and love.

Alphaville is a film I have read reviews of a number of times, in my childhood and teens. As a big science fiction fan, it was a film that I noted in Time Out magazine, whose reviews I read assiduously for many years, but there was a level of abstraction in that review, that meant I never quite got into Soho to see it, and don’t recall it being offered on TV.

Alphaville poster 1965The conceit of having a known shamus, Eddie Constantine, complete with his bricolage of trench-coat, felt hat and zippo lighter provides a fantastic, accessible context to the action. His direct to camera frankness and unaffected violence in the hotel room where he first encounters the ‘level three seductresses’ who service hotel clients, all gets the film off to a dynamic start.

The gradual acknowledgement of the manipulated minds of inhabitants of the city of Alphaville and the omniscience of the Alpha 60 computer is subtle and has resonance with the ambivalence I feel now about the pervasiveness of online mobile social media and the growth of algorithmic regulation.

Despite its many serious critiques of the impact of computers on how we might think, the film has a great humour and gusto. As Eddy asks a confederate about colleageus he lists Dick Tracy and Flash Gordon as allies whose fate he is concerned over!

The stylised violence has something in common with the punch-fests of the Batman TV show of the same era. The final scene as Eddie and Natacha flee the city, her mouthing of “Je vous aime” (“I love you”) is both funny and touching.

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