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February 19th, 2014 AP KRYZA | Movie Reviews & Stories
 

AP Film Studies: Way Back To the Future

The enduring legacy of Alphaville.

movies_alphaville_4016SECRET’S SAFE: Eddie Constantine and Anna Karina. - IMAGE: Rialto Pictures
When Harrison Ford donned a trench coat and grumbled in voice-over as he chased replicants through the rainy alleys of a futuristic dystopia, audiences heralded Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade Runner as a game changer, praising how it melded old-school film noir and science fiction. It was a groundbreaking oddity (though a box-office flop) that would go on to influence works as wide-ranging as Brazil, Attack of the Clones and Looper.

ILLUSTRATION: Hawk Krall
In truth, Blade Runner owed a debt to Jean-Luc Godard’s beguiling and electric 1965 opus, Alphaville (a restored version opens Friday at Cinema 21). Twenty years before Scott, Godard and his French New Wave compatriots had a knack for nabbing tropes from classic Hollywood and perverting them into strange new visions. None is more jarring than Godard’s take on gumshoe Lemmy Caution. 

Audiences in 1965 were thrown for a loop when actor Eddie Constantine—who’d previously played Caution in a string of French B-movies—returned to his signature role craggier and more stoic than before. With Alphaville, the debonaire detective wasn’t dealing with femmes fatales or corrupt police forces. In the sci-fi world of Alphaville, our hero is thrust into a bizarre dystopian future, an Orwellian world of brainwashed citizenry whose love of poetry is punished by death, and where Caution’s signature voice-over competes with that of a sentient computer that controls the thoughts and fates of the people it rules. 

It’s not just the fusion of noir and sci-fi that makes Alphaville one of Godard’s enduring masterpieces. Its themes pop up everywhere, from the idea that machines could rule the world (as in Terminator and The Matrix) to the (borrowed) notion that free thought is a crime against society. Its surrealist imagery is startling, its morals loose and sickening, and its hero as flawed as they come. Its melding of classic Hollywood archetypes and a terrifying future was ahead of its time when it was released. Five decades later, filmmakers are still trying to catch up. Cinema 21.


Also Showing:

  • Those who like watching greased men in masks fight otherworldly beings finally have an alternative to American Horror Story, courtesy of the Lucha Libre Double Feature, featuring Santo vs. the Martian Invasion and the documentary Viva Lucha Libre. Hollywood Theatre. 7 pm Thursday, Feb. 20.
  • The 1997 J-Lo/Ice Cube thriller Anaconda is very certainly worthy of a Hecklevision takedown, but where is the Hasselhoff-starring Anaconda III? Is Hecklevision afraid to hassle the Hoff?! Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Friday, Feb. 21.
  • 5th Avenue Cinema taps into your film-school memories with a series of shorts by legendary experimental director Kenneth Anger. 5th Avenue Cinema. 7:30 pm Friday, Feb. 21.
  • “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12.” That’s the line that closes Stand by Me, and for those of us who grew up saying, “Chopper! Sic balls,” we could say the same thing about classic coming-of-age movies. Laurelhurst Theater. Feb. 21-27.
  • Bringing a little lightness to a fairly heavy week at the cinema, Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous is perhaps the best fictional film about rock ever made, largely because it never seems anything less than enchanted by the flawed idols it follows, even when they hit rock bottom. Academy Theater. Feb. 21-27.
  • Anchored by Tilda Swinton’s solid performance, We Need to Talk About Kevin transcends shock by focusing on the guilt of a mother who has unwittingly raised a monster. 5th Avenue Cinema. 7 and 9:30 pm Friday-Saturday and 3 pm Sunday, Feb. 21-23.
  • Back in 1938, Errol Flynn rocking tights and a goatee was the manliest thing onscreen. To this day, The Adventures of Robin Hood is still better than Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Hollywood Theatre. 2 pm Saturday-Sunday, Feb. 22-23.
  • 1982’s Sophie’s Choice stars Meryl Streep as a rafting guide matching wits with a deranged Kevin Bacon on a white-knuckle whitewater trip. Wait…that was The River Wild, and it’s WAY less a drag than Sophie’s Choice. Can we watch that instead? Hollywood Theatre. 7 pm Saturday, Feb. 22.
  • Portland resident Laela Wilding celebrates her late grandmother’s birthday with a film screening. The catch is that her grandmother was Elizabeth Taylor, and the film is A Place in the Sun, one of Taylor’s finest romances. Hollywood Theatre. 7 pm Sunday, Feb. 23.
  • The Portland Black Film Festival brings back Sidewalk Stories, a little-seen, near-silent drama about a homeless artist who takes an abandoned baby under his care. Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Monday, Feb. 24.
  • In 1973’s Enter the Dragon, Jim Kelly made as indelible an impression as Bruce Lee’s nunchucks as he beat countless asses without messing up a hair on his Afro. In Black Belt Jones, he brings the fight—and a ton of slow motion—back to the States, and emerges with a blaxploitation classic. Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Tuesday, Feb. 25. 
 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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