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Alphaville (Version française)

Eddie Constantine , Anna Karina , Jean-Luc Godard    DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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As the French New Wave was reaching its maturity and filmgoing had evolved as a favorite pastime of intellectuals and urban sophisticates, along came Jean-Luc Godard to shake up every convention and send highfalutin critics scrambling to their typewriters. 1965's Alphaville is a perfect example of Godard's willingness to disrupt expectation, combine genres, and comment on movies while making sociopolitical statements that inspired doctoral theses and left a majority of viewers mystified. Part science fiction and part hard-boiled detective yarn, Alphaville presents a futuristic scenario using the most modern and impersonal architecture that Godard could find in mid-'60s Paris. A haggard private eye (Eddie Constantine) is sent to an ultramodern city run by a master computer, where his mission is to locate and rescue a scientist who is trapped there. As the story unfolds on Godard's strictly low-budget terms, the movie tackles a variety of topics such as the dehumanizing effect of technology, willful suppression of personality, saturation of commercial products, and, of course, the constant recollection of previous films through Godard's carefully chosen images. For most people Alphaville, like many of the director's films, will prove utterly baffling. For those inclined to dig deeper into Godard's artistic intentions, the words of critic Andrew Sarris (quoted from an essay that accompanies the Criterion Collection DVD) will ring true: "To understand and appreciate Alphaville is to understand Godard, and vice versa." --Jeff Shannon

Special Features

Criterion's DVD release of Alphaville can almost be considered 'Godardian' in and of itself. Almost in keeping with the director's minimalist ideals, this DVD has no added "extras." Criterion instead focused their sole attention on greatly improving the visual and audio qualities of the film. This new digital transfer was created from a 35mm fine grain master made from the original negative. Though there are manipulated letterboxed additions available, this DVD is presented in the film's originally intended 1.33:1 aspect ratio and French Mono 1.0 soundtrack. Though a little grainy in spots, this is without a doubt the best Alphaville has ever looked. One could even argue that the visual faults add to Alphaville's grittiness. Though a commentary would have been a nice extra to this complex film, it is the vast technical improvements that make this Criterion DVD a worthwhile addition to any film fan's collection. --Rob Bracco

Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, and philosophical Dec 12 2002
Jean-Luc Godard, the most experimental and influential filmmaker from the French New Wave, made this film in 1965, about an out of control, totalitarian, scientific, logical society. Lemmy Caution, a spy from the outlands, comes to Alphaville, under the name Ivan Johnson to investigate. He discovers a society run by a supercomputer Alpha 65, and populated by brainwashed drones, where love, art, and emotions are against the law. Lemmy gets involved with Alphaville's top scientist's daughter. He helps her discover her true human nature, they fall in love, and together they fight the leaders of Alphaville, and Alpha 65 itself.
The film is fast paced, reminiscent of crime thrillers, and of sci-fi dystopians such as Blade Runner. The film examines human nature, and the redeeming value of love, and spirit, over mind, and material. The film is both very entertaining, and philosophical, that rewards multiple viewing, that offers new insights. I recommend this very much. 5 stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Beauty of Individuality Exemplified Jan. 16 1999
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
It is a rare thing to see a film that not only shows one what life is, but espouses a concrete vision of what life should be. Even more rare is a film which does this by situating characters in a world where one would not want to live thereby isolating the very essence of what makes on human. Godard's Alfaville not only accomplishes this feet but it creates an artistic embodiment of all that true individuality stands for. More potent than 1984 and just as beautiful as novels such as Atlas Shrugged, Alfaville shows one who is willing to watch and listen the true value and purpose of freedom and the ominous results when that freedom is removed from their lives. The music, cinematography and overall directing could only be done by an individual who's sense of life is majestic and bordering on, if not completely genius. This is not only great science fiction but it is art at its highest ideal, a work that makes me proud to be human.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Analysis of Genre Dec 15 2003
As usual with Godard moments stand out. In this film the most absurd sequence involves a diving platform in what looks to be an eastern bloc recreational center and a number of black sweatered and bereted revolutionaries with sub-machine guns standing on the pool deck spraying the divers as they dive. Whats it all mean? Well I suppose you could say its Godards way of commenting on the wests ability to turn even political oppression into mass entertainment.
I like a number of Godard films: Breathless, My Life To Live, Contempt, Pierrot Le Fou, First Name: Carmen, Hail Mary, In Praise of Love --still Alphaville remains kind of a hard one for me to get into. Perhaps because I am not too keen on science fiction. It seems the people who like this film are the ones who like science fiction in general. To me science fiction is full of cliches and so is film noir and so to me it seems Godard is using these genres to address cultural cliches -- and yet he is also making pointed comments on modern culture as he does so. You can always count on a Godard film to be smart and even though its not one of my favorites Alphaville is no exception to that rule.
Anna Karina looks great as always. Unfortunately for Lemmy Caution she is the daughter of Alphaville's overlord. No one really believes the future will look like a parking garage nor that a super-computer will run our lives and that people will become vacant automatons. Only a handful of early twentieth-century authors thought the future was leading us toward Alphaville. In the context of the swinging sixties sci fi just looks campy and noir even campier. Whats going on in Godards head? Hard to say in this film. To me its funny, but a surprising amount of people seem to take this sci fi stuff seriously.
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4.0 out of 5 stars 'Absurdity' as a Teacher Oct. 26 2002
Godard, famous the world over with the art house, college course, and critic corner, has here, made a piece so absurd and in the extreme which creates a needed desire to view the '65 film. Within the same breath as sci-fi fantasy modern satire overpopulation history imploding upon itself hysterical nonsence overall dehumanization sadness wit born out of suffering lost in a vacuous sucking system of rule where even anarchy has become dull and pointless living non-living automaton where love is only a reflex automation bombardment constant forced labotomy imagery of a so called so named hopeless modernization salvation. Are we to conclude that we only can "learn" from black and white dogma, lines of good/bad, common love/hate? No, yet a certain learning can be gained from the hyperbole, the extreme, and absurdity. Of course, the world has changed faces a dozen times over since '65 and ideals come and go. Some proven beneficent, others perfectly cataclysmic. ... However, one can learn from the darkest periods of this past century alone (and what you learn is really of your own doing and construction). So the movie has classic original overtones and gritty reality met by brutish characters and eerie mechanized beings floating through scenes with at times misplaced soundtrack in foreground interspersed with street/billboard-like signs setting a desired mood and pace. ...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Godard's A #1. Jan. 10 2002
By A Customer
Godard's best film, in my judgment. Certainly his most cerebral. Manages to be quite affecting and parodistic all at once--not an easy feat, even for a Frenchman. Naturally such a sensibility is alien to the American mindset. Most Americans would hate this. In fact, it may be fair to say that *Alphaville* is the litmus test for whether or not a person can handle French New Wave cinema: if you make it through this one, baby, hey, look up--it only gets easier. It's about a French Mike Hammer-type called Lemmy Caution (an amusing name for English speakers--another of Godard's calculated effects) who drives on up to Planet Alphaville by way of a Ford Galaxy. Suspend your belief, baby. This is sci-fi cinema by way of Elizabethan theatre. His secret mission: either assassinate or kidnap a mad technocrat named Vonbraun (get it?) who has created the evil Alpha 60 supercomputer. Along the way, he runs into "seductresses, third-class", Vonbraun's daughter (Anna Karina in the height of 60's fashion), an old friend and former fellow-agent (Akim Tamiroff, doing a hilarious impression of Orson Welles in *Mr. Arkadin*), various other assassins, bureaucrats, garage-park attendants, and even Alpha 60 itself. What does it all mean? I have a relatively good idea, but I don't kid myself for one second: Godard's having a bit of fun w / us, here. Too much analysis and you'll be climbing the walls, like certain characters late in the film. Just watch and enjoy . . . if you can. The photography by the master Raoul Coutard, incidentally, is even better than usual, and that's saying a lot.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars French only edition
The DVD with the black and white case is a French only edition, and comes with no extra features at all, and no English subtitles. Read more
Published on Jan. 16 2012 by Mark
3.0 out of 5 stars a weird film and quite interesting
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.
This film which is one of several involving the character Lemmy Caution remains popular to this day as one... Read more
Published on March 29 2004 by Ted
5.0 out of 5 stars The Eternal Theme of the Individual VS The State
It should not surprise anyone that a film from Jean-Luc Godard will invariably attract the usual assortment of Post-Modernist, ethically and politically retarded, anti-Western... Read more
Published on Jan. 1 2004 by S. D'Anconia
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Transfer of Great Film with NO Extras
...Needs no introduction. The Criterion DVD is subpar only due to lack of extras (hence the three stars). Very strange for Criterion. Read more
Published on Nov. 20 2003 by Arno Parke
2.0 out of 5 stars French Fried Orwell
Curate a screening of Godard's *Alphaville* for today's Digerati. Snag as many technocrats, cognitive logicians, Kripkean analytical philosophers, MIT scions, and 80K-a-year... Read more
Published on June 30 2003 by Alexander
1.0 out of 5 stars Ultimate film for quintessential pseudos
A silly, ugly, pretentious, inept, embarrassing, shallow, dreary film that was dated the day it was made.
Published on April 25 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Jean Luc Goddard's triumph over Science Fiction
Jean Luc Goddard presents a brilliant look at an Huxleyian future, with comedy made uncomfortable by a callously violent society. Read more
Published on Jan. 27 2003 by KNO2skull
1.0 out of 5 stars What a horrific waste of time...
Over 100 minutes of the most boring, pretentious, pointless film ever shot. Incomprehensible, muddling dialogue that sounds as if it was dictated by a drunken, homeless bum. Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2002 by Eric Blumrich
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Film Noir
Imagine someone like David Lynch being hired to make the next James Bond film. That is analogous to what happened with Alphaville. Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2002 by Blahblahblah
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