"Science-fiction films tell us as much about the time in which they were made as the future they project and between the two moments – the one specific, the other nominal (1984, 2001, etc) – a sense develops of their qualities of prescience and allegorical vision. The enterprise of proposing a world-to-be is always a hostage to the future's fortune. The law of diminishing returns that applies as regards special effects bears this out. How soon before Matrix-era 'bullet time' looks as dated as Douglas Trumbull's 'star gate' pyrotechnics in 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)? Which may explain why Alphaville hasn't aged as badly as other examples of the genre; it finds its 'special effect' in the specifically cinematic resource of light.
But this light, let's remind ourselves, is the light of the past brought to bear on the presence of the future now. Would it be going too far to suggest that, in adding the dimensions of past and future to the present of 1965, Godard was able to set the controls of his particular time machine to withstand the very test of time? There's no shortage of films that seek to travel in time following Alphaville, from Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982) and Mauvais sang (Leos Carax, 1986) to Gattaca (Andrew Niccol, 1997) and Dark City (Alex Proyas, 1998). There is also the developing genre of what critic Jonathan Romney has named 'steel and glass cinema' which he describes 'as cinema set in the recognisably contemporary urban world but framed and shot in such a way that it becomes detached, not unreal so much as irreal, bordering on science fiction', examples of which include Elle est des nôtres (She's a Jolly Good Fellow, Seigrid Alnoy, 2002), Demonlover (Olivier Assayas, 2002), Cypher (Vincenzo Natali, 2002) and Code 46 (Michael Winterbottom, 2003). Romney claims Alphaville to be 'the mother' of such cinema and with good reason. In the forty or so years separating Alphaville from Demonlover it has become evident that the no-place of Godard's dystopia, with its labyrinth of corridors and lobbies, was already one big non-place in waiting. The presence of the future that Godard was keen to capture back in 1965 has since taken shape as a global nonplace crossing continents and time-zones. 'It may be that we have already dreamed our dream of the future', J.G. Ballard has mused, 'and have woken with a start into a world of motorways, shopping malls and airport concourses which lie around us like a first instalment of a future that has forgotten to materialize.' Or, to put it another way, Alphaville exists. Everywhere."
(Chris Darke, Vertigo Magazine)
This is an edited extract from Chris Darke’s monograph on J-L Godard’s Alphaville to be published by I.B.Tauris in 2005. Chris Darke is a writer, critic and lecturer on the moving image. His book of selected writings, Light Readings, is published by Wallflower Press. He is also represented, with his film study Chris on Chris, on the DVD of La Jetée and Sans Soleil. See also pages 26 and 38.
"Singaporeasy is a hypertext story based on an experience of a stopover in a strange city. It is a cross between a travel guide and a jumble of trivial memories and fleeting ideas. It contains narratives, which overlap and inform one another but never conclude. It invites the reader to click on the links, to choose their own path, to wander."