KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (3)
August 3, 2017
One of 25 installments in a series of enthusiastic posts analyzing and celebrating a few of our favorite neo-noir movies from the Sixties (1964–1973).
ALPHAVILLE | d. JEAN-LUC GODARD | 1965
Every stairway holds a story, a confession, an escape. Each doorway a surprise.
The disconcerting loud slow human breathing of the Alpha 60 computer. Time is the substance of which I am made, it says in the words of Jorge Luis Borges. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.
The camera levitates just outside the glass elevator as Lemmy Caution rides up, his face blank. He has arrived from an Outer Country, a gumshoe masquerading as a journalist, a character from a dozen other books and films dropped into this unspecified future world depicted in the streets and buildings of 1965 Paris.
Lemmy has a gun and an Instamatic camera. The Instamatic shoots as often as the gun. Both bloodless.
Men behave illogically — a crime punishable by death — at a rate of fifty times that of women. The transgressors are shot at the edge of a swimming pool, after which a pack of synchronized bathing beauties straight out of a Busby Berkeley film swim over to finish them off with knives, to the applause of bystanders. Still, no blood.
Natasha reads a poem by Paul Éluard in the dark space of the moment between the police arriving at the front of the hotel and knocking on the door of the room.
In this moment, we know that Caution loves Natasha. We love Natasha too. The camera loves Natasha. Godard loves Natasha and the actress who plays her, Anna Karina, despite the fact that they’ve just ended their marriage before making this film together. Men behave illogically.
The film decays physically as the computer loses control. Black and white images flash briefly into negatives, then back to positives.
Yes, I am afraid of death, Caution tells Professor Von Braun, the creator of Alpha 60. But for a humble secret agent, it’s an everyday thing, like whiskey. In the unspecified future, a humble secret agent still wears a trenchcoat and a fedora, of course.
An everyday thing. He kills again, this time in a series of near-still images, frozen in sequence like a comic book. And then he runs, leaving Alphaville with Natasha, careening the getaway car down a staircase.
Je vous aime, Natasha stammers, finally, after explaining that she doesn’t know what to say, that she wants him to tell her what to say. We watch her smile as the music swells, as the lights fade, as Caution drives on silently to the Outer Countries.
KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Series Introduction | Kio Stark on THE KILLERS | Alix Lambert on BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | Judith Zissman on ALPHAVILLE | Mark Kingwell on HARPER | Lynn Peril on BLOW-UP | Devin McKinney on SECONDS | Drew Daniel on BRANDED TO KILL | Luc Sante on POINT BLANK | Gordon Dahlquist on LE SAMOURAÏ | Alice Boone on LE CERCLE ROUGE | Brian Berger on COTTON COMES TO HARLEM | Adrienne Crewe on PERFORMANCE | David Levine on THE FRENCH CONNECTION | Dan Fox on GET CARTER | Melissa Gira Grant on KLUTE | Brandi Brown on SHAFT | Kaleb Horton on FAT CITY | Peter Doyle on THE GETAWAY | Sarah Weinman on HICKEY & BOGGS | Annie Nocenti on BADLANDS | Josh Glenn on CHARLEY VARRICK | Gary Groth on THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE | Lisa Jane Persky on THE LONG GOODBYE | Mimi Lipson on MEAN STREETS | Sherri Wasserman on SOYLENT GREEN.
MORE MOVIES at HILOBROW: KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM: 25 neo-noirs of the Sixties (1964–1973) | James Parker’s BOURNE VARIATIONS series | Alix Lambert’s SÉRIE NOIRE series | Jacob Mikanowski’s SCREEN TIME series | Josh Glenn’s SHOCKING BLOCKING series | Joanne McNeil’s ALL MY STARS series | MORE: including dozens of HILO HERO items on movie directors and actors.
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