Mr. Godard is a great one for making shock Impressions with vivid images, and he relies on this technique for achieving the main thematic effects in this film. A scene of people being executed in an airy, antiseptic swimming pool because they have behaved "illogically" — i.e., they have felt emotions—is staggering as a single scene.
Tonight's Saturday Night feature is Jean-Luc Godard's political treastise Alphaville. Godard's cinematic style is dazzling, brilliant.
In Alphaville, Jean-Luc Godard fuses a hardboiled detective story with science fiction. Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine), a hero Godard borrowed from a series of French adventure films, comes to Alphaville, the capital of a totalitarian state, in order to destroy its leader, an almost-human computer called Alpha 60. While on his mission, Lemmy meets and falls in love with Natacha (Anna Karina), the daughter of the scientist who designed Alpha 60. Their love becomes the most profound challenge ... More
Mr. Godard's conclusion that love conquers all may have disappointed cynics, but they are wrong. Godard is right.
NY Times review (1965):
It begins as a fast-moving prank that combines the amusing agitations of a character on the order of James Bond and the highly pictorial fascinations of a slick science-fiction mystery, and it makes for some brisk satiric mischief when it is zipping along in this vein. Then, half way through, it swings abruptly into a solemn allegorical account of this suddenly sobered fellow with a weird computer-controlled society, and the whole thing becomes a tedious tussle with intellectual banalities.
It is lively so long as Lemmy Caution, this secret agent chap who is borrowed from a popular series of cheap French detective films, is moving with eagle-eyed alertness into the mysterious city of Alphaville, casing its robot-like people and the strangely compliant maids in its sleek hotel. And it reaches a high point of excitement when he meets and has a crucial session with a predecessor secret agent, who slips him some vital information and then mysteriously dies.
Up to this point, this offbeat picture, which opened at the Paris yesterday, has all the momentum and promise of a super atomic-age spy film. Lemmy Caution is a cool, efficient tough-guy as played by Eddie Constantine, the sandpaper-faced American actor who has done all his mischief in French films, and Alphaville has the neonlighted hardness of a modern city where none but gangsters dwell.
Evil lurks in its shadows. Inhumanity stalks the corridors of the glass-and-metal buildings that seem to immolate a breed of muscular ghosts, and fear signals briefly in the sad eyes of the dying agent, played by Akim Tamiroff. Mr. Godard has set us up nicely for an onward sweep and entertaining rush of futuristic melodramatics in a modernized Wellsian "Things to Come."
ALPHAVILLE, screenplay and direction by Jean-Luc Godard; produced by Andre Michelin. A Chaumiane Production (Paris) and Filmstudio (Rome) co-production, released by Pathe Contemporary Films. At the Paris Theater, Fifth Avenue and 58th Street. Running time: 100 minutes.
Lemmy Caution . . . . . Eddie Constantine
Natasha Von Braun . . . . . Anna Karina
Henry Dickson . . . . . Akim Tamiroff
Professor Von Braun . . . . . Howard Vernon
The Engineer . . . . . Laszlo Szabo
Asst. to Prof. Von Braun . . . . . Michael Delahaye
Professor Eckel . . . . . Jean-Andre Fieschi
Professor Jeckel . . . . . Jean-Louis Comolli
Alpha 60 . . . . . Itself