Subtitled A Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution, Godard’s hugely-influential mixture of science fiction and film noir was originally called Tarzan vs. IBM, a title indicative of its pop art/pulp fiction sensibility and suggestive of its theme: the alienating, dehumanizing effects of contemporary computer culture. In Alphaville, disillusioned Secret Agent Lemmy Caution (played by tough-guy American singer/actor Eddie Constantine, who had already played the Caution character in seven previous Euro-pulp thrillers including Dames Get Along and This Man is Dangerous), travels through space in a Ford Galaxie to Alphaville, the city of the future, where love, art, and individuality are outlawed. His mission is to neutralize the mad dictator Professor Leonard Nosferatu von Braun (Howard Vernon, Bob le Flambeur) and destroy Alpha 60, the ruthless, totalitarian computer that demands mindless conformity. To further complicate matters, Caution also falls in love with Natacha (Godard regular Anna Karina, star of Band of Outsiders), the beautiful daughter of the scientist who designed Alpha 60. Cartoon-balloon dialogue complements the comic-book plot, while the amazing visuals of Godard’s frequent cinematographer Raoul Coutard render the city as a shadowy, menacing, harshly-lit world of concrete and glass – a Cold War-era vision of a futuristic East Berlin. In fact, Alphaville was shot entirely on location in contemporary Paris, underscoring Godard’s idea that the sterile, soulless world of Alphaville had already arrived. Echoing the work of George Orwell, William S. Burroughs and Raymond Chandler, Godard’s utterly unique, playfully genre-twisting futuristic thriller foreshadowed such later sci-fi classics as Blade Runner and Brazil.
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