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Showing 1-10 of 53 reviews(5 star). Show all reviews
on May 4, 1999
Like the reviewer above, I was puzzled as to why Criterion would release this film in full frame format when everything else about the edition seemed so meticulously struck, so I thought other people might be interested in Criterion's explanation as to ask why this DVD copy was in the full frame format.
Even though Criterion released the so called widescreen edition previously (1.66:1 letterboxed), each time they re-strike a new product, they will continually consider how the specific movie is supposed to be seen. What I was told was that even though most Europeans probably saw the 1.66:1 widescreen version in the theaters when it was released, it was their belief through a lot of research and interviews, that Godard framed, and meant for the film to be in 1.33:1 - and it was the releasing company that decided on the 1.66:1 format themselves. They told me at Criterion, that neither is necessarily wrong, but that they decided to go with what they believed most suited the vision of it's maker.
I bought the DVD after hearing their explanation, and you will most likely agree with them when you view this version. From the balance of titles and words on the screen, to the way that shots are constructed (such as a sequence which is obviously intentionally composed of only gesturing hands on the edge of the frame during a conversation) I think their argument is right on the mark. Remember in this season of widescreen fever, it shouldn't be widescreen for the sake of widescreen, but to present the thing the way it was intended to be seen.
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on January 14, 2000
On the aspect ratio. I think Steve Rose, below, is absolutely right. I have the widescreen VHS and the Criterion DVD and have run them together and the DVD is obviously giving the full print image. The W/screen tape is only widescreen because it crops the top and the bottom of the image, giving a very cramped composition to every shot. The DVD has a precision of framing that is always spot-on (as one would expect from Raoul Coutard). Not only that but the VHS tape is washed out; it lacks strong blacks, and has next to no contrast - an important feature in a film that is an hommage to American film noir. The DVD is, all up, a model of care and committment to a wonderful movie. Now we can see it as Godard intended. (In particular, we can again see clearly that the synchronised swimmers are stabbing the executed men to death - something that is not obvious on the VHS tape.) This DVD is still listed as widescreen long after they have had it pointed out to them that it is not! As are many of the other films. Buyer beware!)
The film itself probably needs no further introduction. It is a beautiful and sad *comedy* on humanity and Humanism, touched, as all Godard's films of this period were, by his tangible love for Anna Karina - whom he photographs as if he were trying to remember forever. The poetry of Paul Eluard is used to wonderful effect in her awakening, and the film is filled with brilliant visual humour - like the swimmers, mentioned above. A stunning film, and one that seems even more daring and original now than it did when it came out - a sad reflection on the current state of cinema, where even alternative films are trying so hard to please.
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on September 3, 2006
I frankly don't understand what is up with all the negative reviews! I am an ardent film lover and received this for my 12th birthday. Sure some of it such as the huge computer is old fashioned, but the premise is not! Some of the most creative filming I've ever seen (Godard is a genius). And all the scenes are creative. The film follows the existentionalist movement. The idea is fairly creative, especially for the time, and all the actors, especially Eddie Constantine, were great. By the way, I was almost horrified at the brutality towards the end. I've seen films like Resevoir Dogs, yet this came off as just as brutal. Godard did a great job! This is one of my alltime favorite movies. Yes, it's experimental, but I think it works.
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on March 22, 2010
Unfortunately, IBM wouldn't let Godard use his original title -- but anyway, it's one of his best films and highly recommended. Very memorable direction, editing, camerawork, high-contrast lighting, weird use of modern Paris locations as the "futuristic" city, even weirder acting styles and dialogue, and the best computer I've even seen in science fiction cinema: it looks like a flashing lightbulb behind an electric fan, with a computer voice supplied by man who's had his voice box removed.

Ten things I learned while watching Alphaville:

1. You can reach Alphaville just by driving a Ford Galaxie across something called "intersideral space". Who needs the Millenium Falcon?

2. Alpha-60 is a super-computer, controlling an entire futuristic metropolis, that has no defence against a guy in a trenchcoat with a .45.

3. Beautiful women are automatically included with the price of a hotel room. How can I make a reservation?

4. Professor von Braun is also known as Dr. Nosferatu. (He's also known as Dr. Orloff.)

5. Akim Tamiroff escaped from Orson Welles in The Trial (1963) and is now hiding out in Godard's Alphaville (1965).

6. Execution by bikini girls with knives in a swimming pool is the best way to go.

7. If you want to make sure someone keeps a promise, shoot them.

8. If you want to make sure someone is dead, run over their head with your Ford Galaxie.

9. Getting bounced around an elevator by the secret police is a sure way to end up on the floor.

10. The French language sounds even better when it's spoken by a guy with no voice box.
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on January 20, 1999
Mr. Maltin wouldn't know a good movie if it was fed to him. He's too simple-minded to know _how_ to praise "The Bicycle Thief" (see his review on, and too easily bored to appreciate "Alphaville."
Godard has created an entire world with language and gestures. Rather than invest in special effects that will look dated in a few years (i.e., James Cameron), Godard presents Brave New World as a 40's detective picture. It is about life in the 20th century in the same way Orwell's "1984" was about life in 1948: art built from the worst fears about what life is becoming, and the hope of human traits that may still thrive under such pressure.
"Alphaville" has the low-key acting usually seen in Godard's films, and the effect always fascinates me: in a single scene a performance that seems to be a joke about cinematic artifice also has an emotional impact. This is rare; directors and actors are often after either naturalism or histrionics, and while some actors brilliantly achieve both with more "over the top" performances ("Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"), Godard appreciates quiet introspection in an actor. Eddie Constantine is a poet, philosopher, and a violent thug, and Anna Karina is a poised robot slowly discovering her own humanity; both actors communicate through subtle expressions and soft-spoken questions and answers. Robert Mitchum and Veronica Lake would have been right at home in this film; it's a shame more reviewers don't understand this.
"Alphaville" is several films at once: a study of American film noir (a genre mainly discovered by French writers) from a director who understood the rampant pessimism that characterized it. It is also a chilling nightmare about freedom vs security, and as a film of the 60's it is about modern culture becoming postmodern, a hilarious joke told calmly through clenched teeth. Alphaville is a brave film.
This DVD is odd in that it didn't appear letterboxed on my TV, but 1.33:1 isn't a very wide screen. Still, the VHS release is clearly letterboxed. Odd.
In some places (right at the beginning) I thought could see blocky artifacts, as if the film had been poorly digitized for this release. Other than that, the picure and sound were beautiful and clear, and the ability to turn off the subtitles is great; once you've seen it a few times you can turn off the English translation and let the movie wash over you. Highly recommended.
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on February 14, 2014
With each passing year (or generation?) we have the opportunity to rediscover Alphaville, which has provoked some of the most thoughtful and passionate responses you will ever read on Amazon. Visually conditioned as we are by dollar-intensive film productions (which do the imaginative work for us and actually diminish our involvement with what we see), there can be an initial shock at Godard's low-fi (barely sci-fi), black and white futurism. As it veers between slapstick and semiotics, contemporary viewers can't help asking if it's all a joke. "Wow, it's so retro." But the atmosphere keeps getting denser, the sense of constant night and artificial light more oppressive, the violence less and less cartoonish, the repressive politics more menacing and familiar, and the poetry more and more necessary. The film was made prior to the catastrophic (for Left in France) events of 1968 and Godard's really unfortunate adoption of a militant Maoist position, when there was still room for words like love, dreams, freedom and passion, and individual subjectivity was something to be defended. And then there's Paris, which at least two generations of filmmakers have been trying to evoke as hauntingly (and with much greater resources). Having seen so many Godard films, and listened to the arguments for the eccentric and didactic late ones especially, I am convinced that Alphaville will come to be regarded as his greatest and easily most daring movie, more innovative than Breathless and riskier, because he dared to dream, even if the dream was nightmarish.
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on September 15, 2011
Is it trashy art or arty trash? Who cares? The cinematography is pure heaven. The soundtrack is a buzz (even the moments of total silence rock). And the swimming pool scene? gotta see it to believe it,man. Still an influence on modern film and music, including albums released in 2011 by Bryan Ferry and Hyperbubble, ALPHAVILLE rewards repeated viewings with clues that you cant believe you missed the first time. Its rough, but sweet...brainy, yet fun...totally cliched, yet totally imaginative. I cherish every frame. In a world flooded with films created for the purely logical reason of making money, ALPHAVILLEs visit from a galaxy where movies are made for the love of film is always welcome.
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on January 27, 2003
Jean Luc Goddard presents a brilliant look at an Huxleyian future, with comedy made uncomfortable by a callously violent society. All this with an Occam's Razor stance concerning special effects.
I purchased this film without having ever seen it prior, and was not disappointed. 'Blade Runner' and 'THX-1138' owe much to this film, much as many great films following would necessarily have to. Even the wonderfully clumsy science fiction of 'Logan's Run' is reminiscent in spots.
The story is properly disjointed, and keeps the viewer off-kilter even to the very end. The 'hero' is as much an 'anti-hero', and his purpose in the film is as necessarily vague in direction as the society that surrounds him. A veritable cinema verite romp through Goddard's bizarrely violent and humorous world. Highly recommended to fans of films already mentioned, as well as fans of 'Dark City', 'City of Lost Children', and many other such futuristic visions of inner-city dwelling.
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on February 7, 2015
This review is an excerpt from my book “Killer B’s: The 237 Best Movies On Video You’ve (Probably) Never Seen,” which is available as an ebook on Amazon. If you enjoy this review, there are 236 more like it in the book (plus a whole lot more). Check it out!

ALPHAVILLE: Under cover as “Ivan Johnson,” reporter for Figaro-Pravda, supertough secret agent Lemmy Caution (Constantine) drives his Ford Galaxy through intersidereal space into Alphaville, the City of Science. His mission: Locate Leonard Vonbraun (formerly Prof. Nosferatu), founder of Alphaville, and bring him back—or liquidate him.

Lemmy discovers that Alphaville is a fascist utopia where the denizens have lost all sense of feeling and live like emotionless robots; where a new “Bible” (i.e., dictionary) is issued daily, always with the omission of new forbidden words, like “conscience” and “tenderness”; a “galaxy” of its own, where Yes means No and where no one says “Why?”; a city where one either “adapts” or is executed; where a man can be condemned to death for acting illogically—like crying when his wife dies. It is a totalitarian technocracy ruled by the dispassionately logical Alpha 60, the “dreadfully unique” most powerful computer ever assembled. And Prof. Vonbraun created it all.

Complicating his mission, Caution finds himself falling in love with Natasha Vonbraun (Karina), the Professor’s delicate and beautiful daughter; a “pretty sphinx” who might yet be saved from the soulless city. Lemmy discovers that Alphaville plans an attack on The Outlands before they destroy its logical perfection. Can Lemmy complete his mission and rescue the human race—and Natasha—before Alpha 60 destroys them all?

Discussion: “All things weird are normal in this [expletive deleted] of cities,” Lemmy mumbles at one point. “It’s not Alphaville, but Zeroville.” And it’s not pop art, but real cinematic art masquerading as pop art. It’s the most sublime philosophy illustrated by the lowest genre forms: part detective thriller (complete with deadpan narration); part film noir; part graphic novel; part sci-fi; part pop art—and part pure poignant poetry. Godard plays with the conventions and limitations of every one of these genres, using their guileless simplicity and artless bluntness to deliver facts of the heart, unvarnished.

And it’s a totally appropriate approach. Within the city limits of Alphaville everything is exaggerated; everything falls into extreme contrasts. The perfect computer utopia looks like our worst nightmare of a 1960s Eastern Bloc hovel—yet it was filmed in Paris, the City of Lights. The stark black and white photography accentuates the black and white philosophies of both Caution and Alpha 60; of his meaningful illogic versus its logic devoid of meaning. They are engaged in a war between head and heart; between darkness and light; between the go-nowhere circle and a straight line “towards those you love.”

Buuuut we’re getting pretty pompous and pedantic. “Alphaville” is giddy fun, and a wonderful oxymoron: a dead-serious parody; a deeply-feeling film easily mistaken for being shallow or pretentious, when it is in fact a parody of pretentiousness; and a film filled with insight and poetry. Time capsule scenes include Caution’s interview with Alpha 60 and the finale, a masterpiece of poignance, tenderness and salvation. If, in this final scene, you cannot feel, cannot intuit, the words Natasha does not know but that Lemmy is waiting for her to say...then you’re as lost as the dead of Alphaville.
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on December 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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