This is from Godard’s most celebrated period in the 1960s, but a genre in which he had not worked before; science-fiction with a dash of film noir. In Alphaville, our hero Lemmy Caution (played by Eddie Constantine) is sent to the city of Alphaville (somewhere in space) to both seek out a missing secret agent and also to bring down the dictatorial and sentient super-computer Alpha 60 which runs the city. On his way, he meets the daughter of the computer’s creator, played unsurprisingly by Godard’s muse, Anna Karina, and they fall in love.
Notable not just as a departure into a new genre for Godard, but also for its modernist architecture – rather than building large film sets (which would have required a much bigger budget), he used the night-time streets of Paris which were filled in the mind-1960s with strange new architectural designs of glass and concrete, perfectly encapsulating the look of a futuristic city. Helping bring this to the screen was Raoul Coutard, Godard’s regular cinematographer, who helps to establish the noir elements as well as one unbroken, four-minute tracking shot.
A reminder that the film society takes a break next week – Queen’s Birthday Weekend – and will be back with a screening on Monday, June 11.