November 20, 2007

Mini-review: "Alphaville"

(Now that winter is here in Chicago, I am doing a lot more reading and movie-watching, and a lot less bicycling and other exercise; among other things, it means a lot more genre projects I've taken on purely for pleasure, and other projects I don't feel like sitting down and writing a full review concerning. Hence this series of mini-reviews, none of which are longer than a couple of hundred words. To see the full combined list of all mini-reviews [books and movies], click here.)

Alphaville, by Jean-Luc Godard

Alphaville (movie; 1965)
Written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard

As fans of cult films can tell you, some of the movies that reach such a status do so because of building legitimate cults around themselves -- groups of people who sincerely love watching that film over and over, bringing a reputation to that film which is different than a simple mainstream popularity. Some films, however, become cult ones merely on reputation alone; they become popular movies to quote and cite, popular titles to name-drop at cocktail parties, but not the kinds of films that people actually sit and watch all the way through on a regular basis. I have a feeling, for example, that this is the case with the infamous 1965 French cult film Alphaville, which on the surface seems like a legitimately cool experimental thriller; a minimalist science-fiction dystopian drama, from New Wave pioneer Jean-Luc Godard, adding film-noir elements to a fascistic future Paris to create what sounds like a profound meditation on human freedom.

Ah, but then you actually watch the film, and you realize that in actuality Alphaville is yet another one of those dopey abstract artistic messes from the Kennedy years, where the spirit of Modernism is being invoked to cover up a series of sloppy incomprehensible tone-poems masquerading as symbolic dialogue. It's one of those films that sounds great in theory, but that in reality most people will have trouble watching for longer than even 20 or 30 minutes; a great movie to mention on dates, to be sure, and a phenomenal documentation of mid-'60s European Modernist architecture (for those who are into such a thing), but certainly a film that challenges the traditional definition of what an "entertaining" movie is. Mildly recommended, more for the historic aspects than filmic ones.

Out of 10: 6.6

Filed by Jason Pettus at 7:24 AM, November 20, 2007. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |