Godard's dystopian noir 'Alphaville' revisited
Nearly 50 years before Johnny Depp's brain was uploaded to the Internet in Transcendence, a sentient computer - the Alpha 60 - was messing with people's lives and minds in Jean-Luc Godard's black-and-white sci-fi noir Alphaville.
Newly restored, in a pristine digital edition with freshly minted subtitles, Godard's 1965 gem is a bracing salute to American gangster pics, with a jumpy European post-war uncertainty thrown in.
Eddie Constantine, the craggy American tough guy, stars as Lemmy Caution, a trenchcoated, fedoraed secret agent disguised as a reporter and assigned to bring down the Alpha 60's creator, Professor von Braun (Howard Vernon). Complications arise in the form of the inventor's seductive daughter, Natacha (Godard's then-wife and muse, Anna Karina). Lemmy and Natacha move through the Alphaville night - which is the Paris night - and the cold, spiraling architecture of mid-20th century modernism.
Lemmy sports a Kodak Instamatic (the camera phone of its day), snapping images everywhere he goes. And he sports a gun, of course, which he puts to use when he must.
Hardboiled and beautiful (the photography is by Raoul Coutard), Alphaville weaves the words of Borges and the tropes of pulp fiction into a thriller full of defiance and alarm. Society, says Godard, is heading toward soul-crushing technocracy. The movie is a trip - one worth taking.
Alphaville **** (Out of four stars)
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. With Eddie Constantine, Anna Karina, Howard Vernon, and Akim Tamiroff.
Running time: 1 hour, 39 mins.
Parent's guide: No MPAA rating. (violence, adult themes).
Playing at: the Ritz Bourse.