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141 of 148 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In regards to Alphaville's full screen 1.33:1 format
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...
Published on May 4, 1999 by Stephen Rose

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An entertaing Jean-Luc Godard sci-fi film..but minus a star for a barebones Criterion release
From world renown director Jean-Luc Goddard ("Breathless", "Pierrot Le Fou", "Masculin, feminin", "Two or Thre Things I Know About Her"), one of the founding members of the French New Wave came the 1965 sci-fi film known as "alphaville" (Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution). Alphaville is a city from another world in which a supercomputer known as...
Published on November 16, 2009 by Dennis A. Amith (kndy)


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141 of 148 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In regards to Alphaville's full screen 1.33:1 format, May 4, 1999
By 
Stephen Rose (Los Angeles, California) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More on that Aspect Ratio, January 14, 2000
By 
Adrian Heathcote (Sydney,, N.S.W Australia) - See all my reviews
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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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Might help us catch up a little with Godard!, November 29, 2001
Published screenplays should be as irrelevant to the film lover as instructions on the side of self-raising flour are to the gourmet. At best, their interest is limited to scholars and researchers. In the case of Jean-Luc Cinema Godard, however, they are a godsend. Godard's films are so dense, even simply on the verbal level, with allusions, philosophical ideas, aphorisms, puns, complex jokes etc., it is impossible to take them all in during a single viewing. Publishing a screenplay like 'Alphaville' (a sci-fi/detective thriller in which a totalitarian, technocratic regime run by a HAL-like computer is overthrown not by weapons or physical skill, but by a book of Surrealist poetry (Eluard's 'La capitale de la douleur')) is therefore invaluable, and allows us to return to the film more open to its visual astonishments. As was common with the director, Godard didn't actually work from a completed script; this verbatim transcript from the finished film was originally made to facilitate sub-title work.
This edition contains a fine introduction by French cinema specialist Richard Roud, explaining some of Godard's visual sources and the 'ethical' meaning of his stylistic choices (the circle is evil, etc.); over 30 stills and photos from production; and Godard's original treatment (entitled 'A new Lemmy Caution Adventure'), which is fascinating to compare with the finished masterpiece, as well as revealing how completely different the concepts 'story' and 'mise-en-scene' are for Godard.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Experimental? Sure! Does that make it bad? NO!, September 3, 2006
A Kid's Review
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tarzan vs. IBM (Godard's Original Title for Alphaville), March 22, 2010
By 
Lemmy Caution (San Francisco, CA) - See all my reviews
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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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stop listening to Leonard Maltin, 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 Amazon.com), 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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jean Luc Goddard's triumph over Science Fiction, January 27, 2003
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
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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22 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the greatest sci-fi film ever: not a special effect in sight, November 26, 2001
'Alphaville' is Jean-Luc Cinema Godard's 'The Wizard of Oz', the story of an American stranded in a strange fantasy city, who must find its controlling wizard before he can return home, evading forces sent to destroy him. Eddie Constantine reprises the role of Lemmy Caution that made him famous in 1950s France, as the roughneck FBI agent who fisticuffed, dame-bothered and slang-winked his way through a series of simple-minded thrillers. here he has become Special Agent 003, sent by his superiors in the Outlands to assassinate Professor Von Braun, the brains behind Alphaville, a futuristic city controlled by a philosophical computer, and which bears more than a passing resemblance to Gaullist Paris.
Alphaville is a classic dystopia, its minions brainwashed, dehumanised and branded; photographs of its leader on every available wall; the surveilling computer present in every room. dissidents are tortured or murdered in elaborate rituals (e.g. diving-board firing-squads in swimming pools before a gallery of socialites). Double-talk couched in the complexities of dialectic numb the brain; dictionaries are censored daily.
Much of the fun in Godard films of this period lies in their playfulness with familiar cinematic genres; and the trappings of the gangster and spy genres, the detective story and sci-fi adventure (brawls, shoot-outs, car-chases, interrogations, (literal) femmes fatales etc.) are made ridiculous by their slapstick treatment, comic exagerration and over-emphatic music. 'Alphaville' may be a pulp adventure, but the world Lemmy must negotiate is not one of genre, but of ideas, about reality, history, politics, freedom, love, poetry, dreams, the mind, logic, conformity, escape, all reverberating in an environment based on One Big Idea.
'Alphaville', like Chris Marker's similar 'La Jetee', is less a futuristic satire than a reflection of contemporary France (its dark and dense mise-en-scene like a negative photograph of the familiar city; with its extraordinary modern architecture reconfigured as a giant prison), with memories of the recent Nazi Occupation. But, as its name suggests, Alphaville is also the first (cinematic) city of post-modernity, where meaning and authority is decentred, where language ceases to have any shared value, where time ceases to exist, the past and future are abolished, and the mindless live in an eternal present, unable to learn from mistakes or hope for improvement, unable to acknowledge the value of culture. Lemmy seems to be set up as a very 'human' interloper, a repository of 'our' feelings and values in a culture that would seek to suppress them. But Godard called him a Martian', and he is a stranger to Alphaville, which, after all, is our world: he is a figure from pulp fiction , a risible set of signifiers who can only offer Natasha a choice between who gives her orders.
Most dystopias, like '1984' and 'Blade Runner', ultimately fail, because they are as cold and inhuman as the worlds they portray. 'Alphaville', especially in its visionary climactic half hour, shares more with Nabokov's novel 'Bend Sinister' - positing whimsy, idiosyncrasy, gags, Surrealism (Eluard, Bellmer), pop art, the absurd, the unexpected, the daft, the poetic, the aesthetic, the cinematic (especially Melville's 'Deux Hommes Dans Manhattan'), Anna Karina's gorgeous coats against the Brave New World.
But we shouldn't get too comfortable in this ''us vs. them', anti-totalitarian model: Professor Von Braun, with dark, impenetrable shades permenantly welded, is the clean-cut image of the director; he too forces Anna Karina (his daughter, Godard's wife) to perform for strangers and suppress her personality; he, like Godard, is the creator of Alphaville.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, and philosophical, 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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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Eternal Theme of the Individual VS The State, January 1, 2004
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 afficionados. Some of that can be seen in the reviews for this film, both on this page and throughout the Internet. The truth however, is that while Godard was a borderline socialist and critical of the supposed decadence of "America", he was more of a heroic individualist than anything else and his pre-1970 films all demonstrate this fact.
Alphavile is without a doubt, his greatest achievement and it is a work that speaks of an artistic sensibility all but lost in the France of today, which is overun with rampant anti-intellectualism and a worship of un-reason.
Godard takes the Bogart-like "Lemmy Caution" character out of his former slew of 40/50's French spy thrillers and puts the very same character into a future where a technocratic dictatorship exists. In doing so, the very best idealism of American pulp-fiction is given back its soul by a French director, Godard, who truly was interested in the world of ideas.
This film not only shows why a totalitarian state must be destroyed, it also demonstrates some key philosophical concepts in the process. Through Godard, we learn that it is language that first must be assaulted before one can enslave man, then mathematics, then history and finally, the human mind itself. We can see parallels to this line of thinking through the world today and yet, how ironic that it is today's France that probably best embodies Godard's nightmare come to life (for a Western democracy of course).
The cinematography of Alphaville is superb, as is the musical score by Paul Misraki which is one of the finest I have experienced, for it reaches its crescendo with the most important line in the film, almost as an answer to a question. The theme of Alphaville is simple enough - the Individual against the State, but the soul of Alphaville reaches higher to a level where Man is sanctified against all intrusions on his life, liberty and happiness.
Anna Karina plays the part of the Ideal Woman still capable of feeling and understanding the value of love and that immortal word that may still one day save humanity - "I". It is a rare thing to find a work of art that speaks so eloquently to the sublime beauty of Man, Humanity and Individualism. Godard does this and more in Alphaville and for that, he should go down in history as one of Europe's finest artists.
Note - One would need to watch this film about 3 times to completely grasp every important nuance. Also, Anthem and 1984 are good reads along the same vain.
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Alphaville
Alphaville by Jean-Luc Godard
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