So - what did you think? As a way of starting our viewing season, I chose Alphaville deliberately (especially since I simply adore it as a work of art). But enough about what I think. Over to you.

 


Comments

Romain
03/05/2009 17:19

Please tell me you didn't choose Alphaville for our FIRST screening because of some Alpha-related joke.

That was a pretty crazy film, and I'm not completely sure what happened. I really liked the voice of the computer (Alpha 60?), the kind of raspy and harsh old man voice that has to speak slowly and p-r-o-n-o-u-n-c-e everything. It really lended character to what amounted to a bunch of flashing lights, a microphone on a stick and an intermittent fan. I also liked how prisoners are executed by being made to walk the plank (at the end of which they can make a speech), then they get shot, fall into the swimming pool and are then drowned by beautiful women. Nice.
Judging from this and Breathless, I quite like Godard's filming style- a little loose and free-roaming. My favourite shot in the film was the one where our hero goes up the elevator and we follow him in the next one and film through the glass wall. Then comes the long walk down the corridor with the strange exchange(or lack of) between him and the seductress.
As I said, there were some cool bits that I liked, but my overall impression of the film reamains muddled. I think it is one of those films that warrants several screenings before you can really understand what's going on. I enjoyed it though, and am glad I saw it.

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Scott
03/06/2009 10:19

I could claim that I had considered it first because of the title, but I'd be lying (although now, and in the future, I certainly will).

I love the fact that Godard simply refuses to let practical issues get in the way of his yarn (largly incomprehensible, it might be). So he writes his way out of scenario problems (Alphaville, the city / planet happens to look like 1960s Paris; Lemmy's spaceship is his Ford Galaxy).

Amongst my favourite scenes are the fight sequences (in the elevator and especially in the car park at the end - these were ripped off by Hal Hartley), the conversations between Lemmy and Natacha where they're filmed as a series of profiles and Alpha 60 itself.

This must be the something-th time I've seen this - double figures certainly - and I never tire of it. So - is it significant that everytime Natacha or the seductresses say 'why', Alpha 60 beeps on the soundtrack?

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Luke
03/08/2009 00:50

I quite liked the film albeit was a little confusing. Agree with you Romain, Alpha 60's voiceover was just awesome in they way it was so present and unfeigned. The swimming pool executions were also a highlight for me, very imaginative. Didn't notice the beep everytime they said "Why" Scott, as opposed to the blinding, flashing light at the start which caused me serious retinal damage.
Looking forward to the next one.

Luke

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Scott
03/08/2009 16:39

Yes - the SRD is always a problem. What about those lovely closing shots, as they're driving out of Alphaville. I keep thinking that the wobbly-vision has to be deliberate, making those long-shots of the car/spaceship on the motorway / space-lanes distorted and glorious. But - don't you think they (the wobbly shots) also work to undermine the entire narrative, reminding us that it's all a fiction, a fabrication? the cinematic apparatus being revealed, if you will.
Thoughts?

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Luke
03/08/2009 22:40

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Luke
03/08/2009 22:54

^^^^ above post was merely for discussion board cred ^^^^

I don't actually remember the wobbly camera at the end, but in other films I have often thought about that idea of the shaky camera being an intended tactic of, not so much reminding us it is fiction, but to rather persuade us to connect the two worlds (the film and real life) and consider the film/story in our own reality/world. Thus letting the film have more of an effect on you.

Luke

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Romain
03/09/2009 17:27

I don't vividly remember the end bit either, but I guess you have picked it up after the xth viewing, Scott. If its purpose is undermine the narrative and remind us that it is a work of fiction, why? What does this achieve? If the success of a film normally rides on you believing in and at least partially accepting the narrative and world, why change it at the end? Does Godard/Scott get off on people leaving the cinema with a bitter taste in the mouth?

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Scott
03/09/2009 18:25

By 'Scott' do you mean me - or Ridley Scott (as I usually leave the cinema with a bitter taste after his films).

Nothing about Alphaville convinces me that we're to try and find the usual mainstream pleasures in it. It would be relatively easy to rewrite it as a noir-ish detective story (oh, wait - Bladerunner? Hang on - Dark City?) and find those standard pleasures in it - and Alphaville seems to know this and resist it at the same time. Why else have a grizzled detective who falls in love with the gangster's moll, and yet who seduces her in a tightly choreographed sequence of alternating profiles?

Personally, it seems to me that Alphaville is doing what Breathless does - taking whatever of Hollywood Godard wants to play with, luring us into the story and then blinding us with his flashing lights, or pulling the rug out (which ever metaphor works). The film works to prove that he can film a moving vehicle without shuddering the camera - which means that including those final blurred moments is deliberate.

Is leaving the cinema with a bitter taste such a bad thing? What's wrong with having it pointed out that our usual pleasures are stupid? isn't Godard saying that we're better than that?

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Romain
03/09/2009 19:58

ZING! The Doc strikes back!
Ok, maybe he is trying to point out that our normal pleasures are stupid but is he really saying we are better than that? I suppode you could attach a metaphor to the story: the leading lady ( and the audience), born to a society in which she is forced to conform becuase she can no longer express independent thought (going along with stupid pleasures), and who is plucked from this society by the hero detective (and Godard), and whisked away to a free and happy life?
I guess the problem I see is that the characters are all essentially flawed, just as we are, so I don't know if we ARE better than that...
Example: I LIKE some of Ridley Scott's films, yes even (shock) Gladiator! (and Alien and Thelma and Louise)

I think intentionally making your audience leave the cinema with a bitter taste is a bad thing (there are exceptions to that). Ultimately it forms something of a paradox: by reminding us that our pleasures are stupid, it is also forced to include itself in that category, making it a stupid pleasure (albeit of a different nature), so why should we listen to it?

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Scott
03/11/2009 15:11

Why does cinema need to entertain? Where does that demand come from? I keep returning to the fact that - in the earliest days of the medium - it could have developed an entirely new representative language, or languages. Yet it became theatre-on-screen because that was the economic / ideological structure it slotted into. Thus the possibility for cinema's difference from theatre was annulled and lo! The demand for pleasure (stupid pleasure, or blind pleasure, Zizek would say) wins out.

I like the fact that Godard locks me out of some kinds of pleasure. I don't get resolution, I get confusion. I get the collision between my trained expectations of narrative and my desire to somehow transcend them. Or something. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth - yes - but only because it's scraping the accumulated crap of Hollywood from my tongue and the bad taste is bad because it is different. Not because it is wrong.

Is it so wrong for me to realise that I'm settling for less, and that my pleasures could extend to so much more?

Rob Schneider: now there's a 'wrong' cinema.

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Romain
03/11/2009 19:53

Hmmm... I guess you're right. The main problem is that most people do not want to be told that what they like and watch all the time is crap. Your average cinema-goer is content with where they are (because they are trained by the system to do so). In small and grungy independent cinemas around the world, other balding intellectuals may feel a thrill as they walk out of Alphaville with a bitter taste in their mouths. Then they will go home and watch the news and hear that Deuce Bigalo: Male Jigalo 3 has been so popular that it has broken box-office records. You may shed a few tears, but unfortunately that's the world we live in.

Looking back over this discussion, I think I've been arguing more about a general audience, whereas you're talking about your own personal experience. I like the point you raise about it being a bad taste because it is different, not wrong. That rings true for a lot of non-hollywood/western films, in my experience.

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Scott
03/11/2009 20:59

An audience is composed of individuals. Yes, individuals have been trained, but individuals can be re-trained. Just because the supermarket is full of 2-minute noodles, which are easier to cook than 'real' food, does it mean that we have to settle for 2-minute noodles all of the time.
Yes - Deuce Bigalow may break records, but soo too does A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, or Straight Story (which is Lynch's only Disney film, by the way).

We are all capable of genius. Why settle for less?

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Romain
03/12/2009 16:40

No, I disagree. A lot of people are idiots. We are not all capable of genius, or else we would have a lot more to show for it. Most people are entirely un-adventurous when it comes to films (and cooking) which is why we see the same kind of films churned out again and again. It is easy to train and individual from birth (or even from the womb if you want) but it is much harder to re-train them. I'm not saying we have to eat fast food all the time (nor would I suggest that anyone reading this does), but you can't ignore the fact that fast-food sales are booming. I think it would be great if everyone didn't settle for less, but I don't really see that happening anytime soon. Pessimist or realistic?

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Scott
03/12/2009 20:37

Hmmm. I don't want to agree with you. I cannot believe that you're here learning to create products for an audience you loathe. But we're moving off-topic.

Isn't the point about Godard's attempts to provide a difference? Yes, fast-food sales are booming, Deuce Biglaow 9 will no-doubt do very well, and the planet is going to hell in a handcart, but - nevertheless - every individual is capable of genius. Why not make those opportunities available to them?

I could just as easily argue that because "a lot of people are idiots" and there are a lot of people in my classes, that- ergo - a lot of the people in my classes are idiots and that I'm wasting my time with them. I could - then - make life much easier for myself by delivering less and less difficult material until eventually we sit and look at each other for three hours.

But because I believe that everyone is capable of genius, then everyone should be permitted the tools to achieve genius.

People aren't idiots, Romain. They're certainly prone to laziness but that's not the same thing as stupidity.

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Romain
03/12/2009 21:24

Okay, I'm in way over my head here, but oh well...

Let me clarify a couple of things:

1. When I say a lot of people are idiots, I do not mean they are stupid, but rather that they are incapable of letting themselves become involved and engaged in a text that does not conform to what they normally watch. Many people switch off as soon as they realise a film is in black and white, or has subtitles.

2. I do not loathe my audience. Often I feel angry towards people in general, but this is because I do not like what we are doing to the planet/each other. When I see a great film I can think "well, at least we are achieving something" and I feel better.

3. You score a point Scott. I have decided that everyone is capable of genius, given the right tools. I have been argued down by your passion for teaching. Maybe that's why you became a teacher- so you could provide and provoke the kind of thinking by which genius is achieved.

I hope I will be capable of creating something worthwhile one day.
Thanks Scott.

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Scott
03/13/2009 00:34

I hope our discussions are not about scoring points.

I do understand your frustrations(mainly because I share them). The terrible cycle of people being trained to expect less, and less being delivered unto them, doesn't offe rmuch hope for the collective intellectual capacities of our species

And yet, for all the Deuce Bigalows in the world, thirty people got together in a room on Thursday evening to watch a kooky film about a not-very-British serial killer. That's got to count for something?

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Romain
03/13/2009 20:29

Yes, our screenings do count for something, that is what I am saying.

"I hope our discussions are not about scoring points" They aren't, I just used that analogy as a means of signaling to you that your arguments had won me over. Cut me a little slack, would you?

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