Watching the film again, I was interested by the way that finally it seems that recent cinema is catching up to it. There are moments that some films from around the same time captured and re-presented (such as the couple facing each other fading into them looking directly, almost accusingly, into the camera in The Man Who Fell To Earth. And the low key spacestation sequence of 2001, full of telephone booths and groups of scientists having atrium based discussions could arguably have taken that influence from Alphaville) but I'm seeing traces of Alphaville everywhere in the recent decade, from It's All About Love to 2046. Films which make the contemporary environment strange; or show the past as loverlorn as the future, while the present is only desolation containing once meaningful gestures stripped of their content or confused.
There's a beautiful low key, almost everyday, quality to the locations that nonetheless keeps throwing up beautiful and bizarre, though often cold and inhuman, imagery. I love that much of the action is over the top (I think a gun is fired more times in this film than in any Godard, perhaps emphasising its generic qualities) yet fragmented or obscured enough to not fully satisfy as such. For example the final sequence involves a car chase from the snowy Northern (neige du nord) zone of Alphaville to the sunny Southern (sud du soleil) and back again! Yet that emphasises the poetic qualities, as if in banal, transitory spaces and surrounded by brainwashed (robotic? cloned? lobotomised? collaborators? children with no experience of the wider world that they are told is threatening and they have to wage war with?) citizens whose 'Bibles' in a 1984-esque way contain ever decreasing numbers of words with ever changing and multiplying meanings, perhaps a poetic imagination is the only response. In an environment where intellect is viewed with suspicion, having multiple personalities or agendas, or an inner life or personal allegiance, is as threatening as active subversion.
It is a film both situated squarely in its time (from computers taking up entire rooms, to panels of blinking lights, to number-tattooed residents and the pointedly named Professor von Braun being the significant figure who has to be turned or killed alluding to the legacy of World War Two rocket-to-atomic scientists) and strangely more alien and sci-fi-feeling the further away that we get from its era and its then-urgent, now of their time, maybe even obscured by being so of their period, messages.
Also, I couldn't help but think that this is really a remake of Godard's earlier film Band of Outsiders in two key scenes, albeit with generic sci-fi/noir/Lemmy Caution signifiers added and coming from a darker, colder place. The violence in Alphaville is greater, yet doesn't seem to hurt as much as in Band of Outsiders, despite Band of Outsiders having its own layer of ironic detached distanciation from identification with its characters. In particular the English lesson translating Romeo & Juliet from Band of Outsiders here gets turned into the room of people listening attentively to the supercomputer Alpha 60 making its philosophical pronouncements, while both of our guys have more pressing problems of trying to pass messages across to the girls during the class. And the final sequence of betrayal, or sacrificial murder, of the other man in our heroine's life that frees our remaining characters to escape, sequeing into a scene of them driving caught in between one world and the other ("I can't decide between the north and the south"), focused intently on Karina's character's ambivalent, exhausted, fractured speech-based epiphanies regarding their future as their final image. Even though Band of Outsiders then pushes on into the short Chaplin homage scene.