6. Alphaville (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965)
The new wave filmmakers reinvigorated, indeed reanimated, classic cinematic genres, such as the musical (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg), suspense (Le Boucher) and even sci-fi, and Godard’s Alphaville just edges Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 as the great new wave sci-fi flick. What is fascinating, however, is how similar both films are, including an obsession with books and their possible destruction: Fahrenheit 451, of course, is the temperature at which paper burns; while one of the many oddities of Alphaville, the futuristic city where Eddie Constantine’s grizzled detective, Lemmy Caution, is engaged on a mysterious mission, is that dictionaries are constantly being updated because more and more words are being banned. Having been writers themselves for Cahiers du Cinema and then adapted novels for the screen, these two great cineastes were also clearly lovers of literature.
What also marks both Alphaville and Fahrenheit 451 as unusual sci-fi movies, certainly for the time they were made, was how ordinary they made the future look. Godard, in particular, famously used his limited budget to create a futuristic city that hardly looked futuristic at all; in fact, it was all-too-contemporary in its sheer grimness and greyness. His sci-fi movie was not about rocket ships and other unimaginable inventions but instead the everyday technology that has come to control our lives, particularly computers, and the often stultifying effect that they can have on human emotions.