Monday, March 19, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Alphaville (1965) *

NR, 99 min.
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Writers: Jean-Luc Godard, Paul Éluard (poem “Capitale de la douleur”)
Starring: Eddie Constantine, Anna Karina, Akim Tamirof, Howard Vernon

OK. Let’s get something straight from the start. I’m not against the “avant garde” or anything like that. I’ve enjoyed plenty of abstract films. I don’t shy away from weird. But I’m not a fan of weird just for the sake of being weird. And I’m certainly not a fan of weird that eschews all values of entertainment.

I’m sure there are plenty of people that do find Jean Luc Godard’s sci-fi noir “Alphaville” entertaining. I’m also sure that there are plenty of people that praise it merely because Godard made it. Godard’s most recent film, “Film Socialisme” was released last year, and it seems that now most people have given up on praising a film just because it was made by one of the pioneers of the French New Wave movement, as well they should. Just because a master made it, doesn’t mean it can’t be a piece of crap.

In my humble opinion “Aphaville” is—as the French would say—‘merde.’ I know that is snarky of me, but I believe Godard often operates in the theater of snark. With “Alphaville” he’s taken the sci-fi genre and used it for what it was intended, as a criticism for the world in which we live, but his attitude toward it is insolent and often just plain adolescent. He doesn’t really have anything new to say about the world, which is too often ruled by men with too much power who have lost their ideals.

Perhaps this was the original sci-fi noir. I don’t know. But he makes little attempt to make this world believable. Much of the society he depicts is made up of non-sense. This does not work well in the science fiction format. What makes science fiction work is defining strict rules. His future is strict, but little of that strictness has anything to do with rules. It has more to do with just being shocking or weird. This works against any messages he might have to say about our world, and reflects much more on his own psychology. The psychiatrist should never treat himself.

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