What with all the hype and such over the Total Recall remake plus a few other upcoming sci-fi flicks hitting theaters this year and next, I figured I’d also get in a recommendation of one of my ancient favorites from a great director. Granted, Alphaville: Une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (Alphaville: A Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution) is going to be a film many younger readers (or those less well versed in cinema) will like or hate outright for its low-tech look and lovely black & white cinematography alone. On the other hand, those viewers willing to dive headfirst into Godard’s film should come up grinning afterwards.
In my own case, I didn’t truly appreciate it until about the third time I saw it. Actually, the movie made me (and still makes me) laugh a lot because it’s so offbeat, but each viewing revealed even more things about it to take away. The whole idea of taking a popular detective from the present day and dropping him into a “futuristic” setting without changing the film noir aesthetic one bit while using real locations around 1965 Paris in unique ways makes for a great film school lesson in minimalism. That said, the film is layered with meaning if you pay attention and maybe have a pot of coffee at the ready if you’re new to this sort of experience. Clever viewers won’t “need a drawing to get the picture” is all I’ll say here…
I won’t even over-detail the plot, as it’s pretty baffling if you try and dive too deep into things and assign meaning and clarity to it all. Basically, super agent Lemmy Caution needs to tackle a three-part objective by putting an end to a super computer overlord controlling a city where not being part of the program is a death sentence. along the way, Caution needs to track down a fellow agent gone missing and kill off the scientist who created the computer. Let’s just say things get REALLY odd, there’s a love interest, an interrogation, a joke-dispensing vending machine, a slow-motion fistfight and a truly weird finale that manages to wrap things up pretty nicely.
I’d also say that next to the brilliance that is Breathless, this is probably the easiest of Godard’s films to get into, so if you’re flipping a coin between this and say, Week-End and Je vous salue, Marie, well, I’d go with this one first. Tracking down a copy on DVD may be a bit difficult, as The Criterion Collection version is currently out of print. However, if you live in an areas with an indie film store, you may find it there. That is, if there are any of those left. I guess the internet is actually more helpful than it usually is in this case, but don’t go blabbing that you went and pirated this or anything. You never know who’s listening and watching. Then again, you DO know… but let’s not give them any more ammunition to use against you in the future, OK?