Cinesphere: Superficial Alphaville

Godard films are amazing. But, let’s face it, one of the biggest reasons isn’t their intellectual depth, or heavy questions, it’s that they look fantastic.

Cinema Studies majors can, and have, written entire thesis papers on a single frame of a Godard film. Every film is filled with references, philosophical paradoxes, and enough intellectual meat to chew on to keep Einstein busy. And there’s that whole little thing about challenging the language of film. But whatever. Even if none of that matters to you, they are still super-enjoyable, great films. Take one of my favorites, ALPHAVILLE. To start with, its got a very basic (if subverted) plot line I can totally get behind. “Detective saves beautiful girl from evil computer trying to enslave mankind.” My kind of movie! And then there’s the cold, slick, look of the thing. All actual, unaltered, locations, circa 1965. The future as seen through, then present day, Paris. No CGI required.

And so much style. The clothes. The make-up. The hair. A time capsule of 60s, Parisian cool. Not to mention, that face. You tell me Anna Karina isn’t just someone you want to stare at all night. Those huge eyes. Those lips. I know, I know, there’s a whole lot of people hung up on that other one. You know, Jean what’s-her-face from BREATHLESS. She’s good too. My point is Godard filled his films with people that were fascinating to look at; Karina, Seberg, Belmondo, Eddie Constantine…They may or may not have been great actors, in the traditional sense. But there’s something incredibly charismatic about all of them that makes you just want to keep watching them, even if they’re not really doing anything. Which really is kind of amazing, if you think about it.

Look, I’m not trying to dumb down Godard films. Not in the least. There is a depth to them that is staggering. But unlike some other filmmakers whose visual style is essential to understanding the movie on even a fundamental level, they can be immensely entertaining on even the most superficial level. So, here I go. I’m just gonna say it. “Yeah, I like Godard movies. Especially the early ones. The women are beautiful and they look cool as hell.”

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