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 int... more »ergalactic 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.« less
In regards to Alphaville's full screen 1.33:1 format
Stephen Rose | Los Angeles, California | 05/05/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
More on that Aspect Ratio
Adrian Heathcote | Sydney,, N.S.W Australia | 01/14/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Might help us catch up a little with Godard!
darragh o'donoghue | 11/29/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
The greatest sci-fi film ever: not a special effect in sight
darragh o'donoghue | 11/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"'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."
Experimental? Sure! Does that make it bad? NO!
darragh o'donoghue | 09/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."