Eddie Constantine and Anna Karina in Jean-Luc Godard's ALPHAVILLE (1965). Courtesy: Rialto Pictures

Eddie Constantine and Anna Karina in Jean-Luc Godard’s ALPHAVILLE (1965). Courtesy: Rialto Pictures

In Alphaville, a head nod is a no, a shake is a yes. A common hello is “I’m very well, thank you, you’re welcome”. The protagonist shoots a spy in a hotel bathroom when all he was administering was a psycho test. The complementary Bible is a dictionary with words redefined. Death row is carried out by synchronized swimmers. The super computer Alpha 60 outlaws irrational behavior like love and the result is a bizarro world full of automatons.

Lemmy: Are you on narcotics?
Seductress: No, it’s just normal
Lemmy: Everything weird is “normal” in this hole

Alphaville is surrealistic in tone, but invested with context that provides rules, rendering the world logical. The typically cynical and violent private eye of film noir enters an alternative universe where elements of normality are flipped, but since the reasons why are defined, the absurdity becomes normal. You learn to expect all no’s are yeses.

Blade Runner is a remake. Natasha became Rachael. Lemmy Caution became Deckard, to a lesser degree. The Outlands is Earth in Alphaville, offworld is Alphaville in Blade Runner. Professor Vonbraun is Tyrell. Both end with a ride out of the city into nothingness. Like Deckard’s Voight-Kampff test, the Alphaville cops have Natasha tell “Story 842” to Caution as either a suppressive tactic or a test of his criminality.

[Four agents appear, two from the bathroom and two from the hallway]
-Come with us!
Agent: Residents’ Control. When he doubles up, get him
…Story 842, Miss
Natasha: One day a tiny man entered a North Zone café…
…and ordered a cup of very hot, sweet coffee…
…adding, “I shan’t pay, because I’m afraid of no one”
He drank his coffee
He left
He didn’t pay for his coffee
For the sake of peace, the café owner said nothing
But when the tiny man repeated the trick three times…
…the café owner decided to get a tough to sort him out
So, on the fourth day…
…when the tiny man called for his cup of coffee…
…the tough lumbered up to him and said:
“So you’re afraid of no one?”
“That’s right”
“Well, neither am I”
“Make that two cups of coffee”, called the man
[Johnson begins laughing hysterically]

english translation


Blast of Silence


Multi-layered jazz, 60’s era nightclubs, hidden swastikas, sweaty Village apartments, Rockefeller Center at Christmas… the score, compositions, strong chiaroscuro and the juxtapositon of characters in unusual environments set an edgy, doomed mood in Blast of Silence (1961). Hitman Frankie Bono watches children from a high story window, or tracks his victim from a rooftop, shot from the street, framed against the sky in silhouette, a god of New York. He thinks “You coulda been an engineer” but he chose to be a murderer. There’s an essential disconnect between what you are and what you think you could have been, should have been, are above, beneath, or beyond.

Blast of Silence 428, Criterion Confessions, Jamie S. Rich