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Showing 1-10 of 40 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 89 reviews
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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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 Alpha 60 is a dictator in control of the people and the area as it is a film that is a precursor to "big brother cameras" and technology of today. In this city, people must obey the rules as free thought, love, poetry and emotions are eliminated.

In fact, the world of Alphaville is quite interesting because rules include people not allowed to use the word "why" and replace it with the word "because", a bible is kept in each hotel room (which is more or less a dictionary with updated words of not to say) and anyone found breaking these rules will be executed. So, due to the power of Alpha 60, the people of alphaville have been reconditioned and brainwashed.

Enter an agent from "The Outlands" (outside of Alphaville which is literally the city next to it but is called another universe) named Lemmy Caution (played by Eddie Constantine, "Europa", "The Long Good Friday", "Tokyo no Kyujitsu") who is given a mission: To find a missing agent named Henry Dickson and capture and kill the creator of Alphaville, Professor von Braun (played by Howard Vernon).

So, Lemmy infiltrates Alphaville posing as a journalist named Ivan Johnson from the outlands who works for the publication Figaro-Pravda in which he starts taking pictures of the people around Alphaville which doesn't provoke any reaction from the people at Alphaville (because emotion is not supposed to be displayed by those who live there).

Immediately when he makes it to his room, he realizes that these people have been programmed so well that their minds work in interesting ways. For example, his first day is in a hotel and the woman (which has a title of a seductress, third class) that escorts him to his room is only programmed to please and do whatever he wants. Almost like a mindless zombie, she is programmed to asked the same questions over and over.

He immediately meets Professor von Braun's daughter, Alpha 60 programmer Natacha von Braun (played by Anna Karina, "Pierrot le fou", "Une femme est une femme", "Cle de 5 a 7"), a woman assigned to stay close to Mr. Johnson, thinking that he's in town for a festival (which many people from the Outlands come to Alphaville to attend). And not long after their meeting, Natacha is surprised by the questions that Johnson asks her like if she has ever been in love, a concept that she does not understand.

So, as Lemmy continues his mission to find the missing agent and to capture or destroy Alpha 60, he becomes smitten with Natacha as he tries to bring emotions out of her that she is not familiar with. But the more he goes forward into his mission, he is also under the watchful eye of Alpha 60.


"alphaville" is presented in the aspect ratio of 1:33:1 and in black and white. At the time of this DVD pressing, the digital transfer was created from a 35mm fine grain master made from the original negative. This is before newer technology was able to eliminate a lot of dust particles, scratches, etc. But overall, it doesn't deter from the viewability of this classic film. What my eyes were focusing a lot in the film is how Godard constructs the shot. From beautiful locations, elevators and stairwells, there is a sense of style that you see in those shots that I found to be wonderful. But also using scenes that is reminiscent of an Ozu style as the actors look directly at the camera straight on while conversing with another person.

As for audio, the French audio is presented in Dolby Digital mono. The sound was mastered from the 35mm magnetic soundtrack. For the most part, dialogue is understandable and Alpha 60's voice is loud, repetitive and annoying. But my preference in watching this film was having my receiver set with stereo on all channels despite the soundtrack being Dolby Digital mono as I wanted to utilize the rear surrounds to incorporate the mono audio track.

Subtitles are in English.


"alphaville" contains no special features but a short essay by Andrew Sarris (film critic for the New York Observer) is included in the insert.


"alphaville" was an interesting film as it was a film that has been interpreted differently by many people who have seen it. Was it a statement about the suppression of individuality? Was it a statement of early corporate control on a society?

Although the film is a sci-fi film with film noir undertones, it's not a film to think of out of space or typical sci-fi scenery. Nor should one expect special effects. "Alphaville" does take place in an alternate world and although the supercomputer is more or less a light inside a ventilation vent in the film, it's not more about the scenery but what has happened to humanity in "Alphaville". Was the society void of emotion done for the sake of a statement towards the US? The War? Against art? Against love?

Needless to say, the film is one of those films you rewatch a few times and I have found myself with a new perspective each time of what I felt about the film. But some people may feel the film goes right over their heads. And if it does, you won't be alone as the film opened at the New York Film Festival and according to film critic Andrew Sarris, the audience were baffled by the shift in tone. And he talks about the shift of futurism to private-eye mannerisms and I can definitely see that. The film is a mixed bag of incorporating various themes.

But if you look at the film and what it was accomplishing back in 1965, can you imagine how a sci-fi film about a computerized dictator would be somewhat of a precursor to films such as evil computers such as HAL2000 ("2001"), "Terminator" and sure, it may be campy compared to today's film but the fact that a film like this was created back then with an evil supercomputer in mind is quite fascinating.

As mentioned earlier, there are some awesome looking scenes such as Lemmy and Natacha coming down from the stairs or even riding the elevator. I love how those scenes were shot. Probably the most interesting parts of the film is during the execution of those who showcased their emotions to the public and now are to be executed for shedding a tear. As one man who cried for the death of his child, we see him assassinated for displaying emotions. As he falls, a group of female swimmers collect his body. Very interesting scenes in the film during that execution scene but at the same time, for people being killed by gun shots, you would hope to see Godard try to add some realism or even blood on their clothing.

Especially during the fighting and gun shot scenes, for the most part..."Alphaville" suffers from the action scenes looking quite campy. In one scene, a group of thugs circle around Lemmy in an elevator and you see his body moving from all sides as if he was getting the tar beat out of him. But of course, Lemmy suffers no damage at all.

But I understand that the goal of the film was not on special effects but its storyline and its characters. Eddie Constantine did a wonderful job as Lemmy Caution. He has that nonchalant, brute, no-nonsense persona that I felt was cool and of course, Godard's wife/actress Anna Karina as Natacha von Braun. She was absolutely adorable and very beautiful in this film.

Overall, I have to admit that "alphaville" was quite intriguing and enjoyable. Was it one of Godard's masterpiece films? Not really. And the fact that this is one of the few Criterion Collection DVD's that is literally a barebones release, I know some people may find that unacceptable. But the fact that you can find this DVD quite cheap online is a plus and if you are a Godard fan, it's worth checking out.

With interesting cut scenes, audio, imagery and solid acting from Constantine and Karina, "Alphaville" is one of those classic sci-fi, noir films that will definitely entertain you.
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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? Well...you 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 February 12, 2010
"Alphaville" (1965) is directed by Jean-Luc Godard (Breathless). It is witty take on sci-fi, and film noir. This is a sci-fi film with no special effects except for the polarized images towards the later part of the film which seem to represent the view of, and the failure of, the computer Alpha 60. This is a film about films that is referencing a number of genres. It is also a film of ideas. It is about the suppression of the human will by systems that demand order. Most of the people in the film, except for the lead character, Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine), are either robots or humans that have been drained of free-will. Lemmy is a pulp character that Eddie Constantine has played in previous movies who represents a kind of virulent, rebellious life force. The fascist computer that oversees everything is Alpha 60, and it has outlawed thought and feeling. People are executed for crying, or feeling compassion for another person. It is a book of surrealist poetry that Caution reads from that facilitates in the opening of the doors of thought and feeling, and eventually destroys Alpha 60. Faux-quotations from Paul Eluard's book "The Capital of Pain" represents an opposition to the role of logic imposed on the inhabitants of Alphaville. The use of poetry to open up human emotion also references back to Cocteau's 1950 film "Orpheus" where Orphee's recovery of his poetic powers results in his victory over Death. Another source for Godard and his stylistic construction of this film are the writings of Jorge Luis Borges, who weaved stories together from various genres. Many of the quotes in the movie are from Borges own writings, such as "A New Refutation of Time", including the opening line of the film.

References throughout the film emphasize this technocratic dictatorship as a lifeless world inhabited by zombie like beings, or by the living dead. Caution notes that teeth of a girl are small, and pointy, like those of a vampire. Professor Von Braun, the creator of Alphaville, is also know as Leonard Nosferatu (a reference to director F.W. Murnau's 1922 film). In a reference to Cocteau's "Zone de la mort" people stagger down corridors or cling blindly to walls when Alpha 60 is destroyed.

This DVD is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and is in Dolby Digital Mono, in French, with English subtitles. A widescreen format 1.66:1 was originally seen in theatres, and on the VHS, but with bars, and so evidently didn't represent more image. This is a new digital transfer (1998), but it doesn't appear to be remastered, or cleaned up. This is a rather bare bones release for Criterion, though the DVD does come with a pamphlet of a critical review by Andrew Sarris.
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on February 1, 2017
It is, of course, a touch dated (and perhaps a couple minutes of film were clearly corrupted and the colors reversed), but a fascinating film on its own terms. Bizarre, unexplained, and distopian.

I purchased it because, along with The Great Beauty, it is one of the few films which directly references Journey to the End of Night.
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on June 1, 2010
This remarkable film defies genre conventions as casually as its hero encounters oddity after oddity in the strange other-world of Alphaville. Filmed on the cheap, the use of street signs and neon lights defamiliarizes the standard "city at night"and reshapes it to unusual effect. Alphaville is a town where love is prohibited, where yes means no, where political assassinations are orchestrated like sporting events. It happens to be run by a computer that will challenge our hero (Lemmy Caution -- what a great name!)to an interview in which our rough looking protagonist reveals himself to have the soul of a poet. This marks him as especially suspicious. The influence of this super-computer on Kubrick's HAL9000 is unmistakeable. If you've done any reading at all in the work of influential French philosophers of the 1960s (Foucault, Barthes, Derrida) you'll pick up on dozens and dozens of clever, even witty, references to their ideas in this film. Visually noteworthy are the circling movements that characters and cameras make, often delightfully disorienting. A pity that Criterion has lost the rights to this title -- One can only hope that it will not long be out of print, and that any subsequent editions will be as clean and crisp. Buy this while you can!
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I love this film, though despite that the many times I have seen it, I am not sure I totally get it.

A privite dic in 1965 fights a totalatrioan society and falls in love with a girl. Ok. Where are they? Paris? Earth? Or is this man moved to another planet.

Well, despite my comprehension gap--which is good because I have an excuse to keep watching it- I love the free wheeling narritive and the wierd effects: the close ups of elevator arrows, pointing us, well, someplace. The strange voice. The beeps and blips. All those dares that made Goddard so great in the sixties are simply fun to watch, even if I don't totally get the implications.

Fordoraed Eddie Constintine is obviously an homage to American spy flicks: nods to Bogart and Hitchcock. This was when hatted, ciggarrete smoking tough guys in trench coats had real mistique. Before they became cleche's. Godards nails this, as well as his referances. His films are entirely referenacial to cinima before them and the more you watch, the more you pick up on.

I'll keep watching for style, and hopefully, get more command of the subtance.

Does anyone think Alphavile would have worked in color?
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on August 30, 2013
I recommend this movie as a pioneer effort to wake up those who were lulled into normalizing the programming that disguises itself as education. the dictionary is a cautionary warning: changes in the very structure of our language either by removing vital words or re-defining must have a terrible impact on our ability to conceptualize. Dream-like and artsy it is quite effective. look and weep for the present world has great need of the words which were being taken away.
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on August 7, 2013
Jean-Luc Godard creates a hybrid of science fiction and film noir. Actually, there is not much science. Wish there were more. Mostly, the production has a strange feeling that is both cold and creepy. Still, this is a great movie. A secret agent is sent on a mission. He must destroy a totalitarian state ruled by a maniacal super computer known as alpha six. Certainly the old film begins to make more sense now. The computer rules over humans with a fist of iron. Back then we saw the danger of despotic dictatorships that use computer power.
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on March 17, 2014
If you like weird movies like me, you will like this one. The hero is strange, the city is strange, I have no idea what the final plot resolution was about and the omniscient computer sounds like its recovering from a tracheotomy. I derive shear pleasure from scratching my own head, and this movie gave me a supper kitten rub between the ears.
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