“Contraband poetry . . . and consequently the more precious,” Godard wrote about Cocteau's Orphée. In Alphaville, Godard establishes a techno-fascistic city in which poetry-and love and conscience-are contraband, therefore mortally dangerous. His dream/nightmare world is created with mysterious, dread-filled, and hauntingly beautiful images. Black shadows are pools of ambiguity, glass surfaces reflect fear. But Alphaville, the “capital of pain,” is Paris, underlit. The plot is a mixture of comic strip, film noir, and science fiction, as special agent Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) is sent on an intergalactic mission to dispose of the diabolical scientist von Braun, whose mechanical brainchild Alpha 60 tortures the populace with logic. A wonderful moment in this surprisingly moving film finds the poker-faced, hard-as-nails Caution trying to communicate the meaning of the word “love” to von Braun's robotized daughter Natasha (Anna Karina), who must relearn language as a first step toward individuality.

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