This time, we’re diving into French cinema and reviewing the 1965 neo-noir, thriller Alphaville and along the way we ask, is this film just ripping off the works of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, who exactly is Lemmy Caution, why does he look so haggard, and is there hope for an English language remake? Let’s dig in….
Alphaville Movie Cast and Crew
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard: If that name doesn’t sound familiar to you, don’t worry since it wasn’t familiar to us either, but after doing some digging into his career, we discovered he’s one of the most influential filmmakers in French cinema and pioneered the New Wave style of film making during the 1960’s and 1970’s. While he exclusively made films in France, directors like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Brian De Palma and Steven Soderbergh have cited Godard as an influence on their respective styles of directing. He was also awarded an Honorary Oscar in 2010 due to his contributions to the world of cinema.
Eddie Constantine as Lemmy Caution: You may be noticing a trend of naming people you may not have heard of before, but Constantine is considered one of the legends of French cinema. Constantine was a well-traveled individual before he wound up in France - born in Los Angeles and emigrating to Vienna in order to jump start a singing career, but returned to America when that career path didn’t yield results. He then returned to Europe when the only acting parts he could get in Hollywood were minor roles and began performing in cabarets where he was discovered by legendary French singer, Edith Piaf and he helped her break into English markets. The character of Lemmy Caution became his signature role after this discovery, but more on that later.
Anna Karina as Natacha Von Braun: At the time Alphaville was being filmed, Karina and Goddard were married and they continued to work together even after they divorced. Karina is also a legend of French cinema and continued appearing in films as recently as 2008. She also became known as a director, model, singer and writer during her iconic career.
Who is Lemmy Caution?
Alphaville doesn’t address this question until almost 50 minutes into the story, but as our podcast show hosts point out, the film really begins to move after this revelation.
We’re introduced to Caution as a journalist named Ivan Johnson, but it’s not clear if he’s there looking for a story or just on holiday. It becomes obvious that he’s not really a journalist when he pulls out a handgun and begins shooting at an intruder in his hotel room. Lemmy’s real mission is to investigate the city of Alphaville and either destroy the malevolent computer that controls the city, Alpha 60 or to assassinate the creator of Alpha 60, Professor von Braun.
The Alpha 60 entity does appear in the film, but as a disembodied gravelly voice that offers vague philosophy as it tries to control its population. Caution’s pursuit of Professor von Braun becomes complicated when he falls in love with von Braun’s daughter, Natacha, and his mission gains additional objectives as he now has to save her from Alphaville’s imminent destruction.
The character of Lemmy Caution was created by a British author named Peter Cheney who started his career as a FBI agent, but later became a private detective (starting to sound eerily similar to James Bond). Despite Caution being an American agent created by a British author, he has yet to appear in an English language adaptation.
Following World War II, American culture was heavily promoted in France and the population formed an attachment to the American liberators from Nazi occupation. French film producers began to mine for material that would appeal to audiences - Caution became an obvious answer to adapt for the big screen.
Constantine would go on to appear as the character in many films beginning in the mid 1950’s to the late 1980’s, but Alphaville was a polarizing film at the time of release as fans had associated the...