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Alphaville (The Criterion Collection)

4.1 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A cockeyed fusion of science fiction, pulp characters, and surrealist poetry, Godard's irreverent journey to the mysterious Alphaville remains one of the least conventional films of all time. Eddie Constantine stars as intergalactic hero Lemmy Caution, on a mission to kill the inventor of fascist computer Alpha 60. Criterion's edition of this seminal film features a new digital transfer.

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


Product Details

  • Actors: Eddie Constantine, Anna Karina, Akim Tamiroff, Valérie Boisgel, Jean-Louis Comolli
  • Directors: Jean-Luc Godard
  • Writers: Jean-Luc Godard, Paul Éluard
  • Producers: André Michelin
  • Format: Black & White, Full Screen, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: October 27, 1998
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0780021541
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #121,395 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Alphaville (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stephen Rose on May 4, 1999
Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
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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