DissertationDraftSubmitted:23.11.17 Fromthe City to the SeaTheArchitecture of Jean Luc Godard Abstract In “The Elements of Space,” Rudolf Arnheim writes that “The architect does not build space but creates it justthe same”. Using this definition, Jean Luc Godard is just asmuch an architect as he is a filmmaker for the ways that he creates visual,filmic, and narrative space.
Considering this, I would like to examine Godard’suse of architecture in his films, from the room, to the street, to the city, tothe sea. Godard’s unique attitude to space and place will be a primary concernto uncover the interaction of architecture and cinema, and some of their shared concepts : art,philosophy , reality, space, time, representation, symbol, continuity,movement, matter, dimension , depth, framing, perspective, experience, lightand sound. Hypothesis I intend to think spatially about Godard’s practice, to consider/survey the places and spacesin which he has made his films, to analyse specifically how his work is engagedwith forms of urban design and domestic architecture and to what effect. ALPHAVILLEUNE ÉTRANGE AVENTURE DE LEMMY CAUTION(1965)98MIN.
,B/W Director:Jean Luc GodardProductionCompany: Chaumiane Productions, Filmstudio.Producer:André MichelinScreenplay:Jean luc GodardPhotography:Raoul CoutardEditing:Agnés GuillemotSound:Rene LevertPrincipalActors : Eddie Constantine (Lemmy Caution), Anna Karina (Natascha Von Braun),Akim Tamiroff ( Henri Dickson), Howard Vernon (Professor LeonardNosferatu/Professor Von Braun) Synopsis Seventeenminutes past midnight,Oceanic time; having driven all night through intersiderealspace, secret agent Lemmy Caution .003 arrives by white Ford Galaxie in thesuburbs of Alphaville, computer-dominated city of the future.
Armed with only his Zippo lighter, a revolver in theglove compartment, and a volume of Eluard poems, he must capture or killProfessor Von Braun (once professor Nosferatu) and destroy Alpha 60, thecomputer that through remorseless logic determines every facet of its citizenslives, outlawing such illogical trivia as love and poetry.Disguised as Ivan Johnson, reporterfor the Figaro- Pravda, Caution tours the city and there finds all feeling andspontaneity forbidden by the cold dictates of an ahistorical logic. He meetsand (of course) falls in love with Natasha Von Braun, the scientists daughter,and carries her off with him after teaching her to speak the word ‘love.’ Alpha60 is destroyed when Caution gives metaphorical answers to its strictly logicalquestions, its circuits overloaded by the unmanageable data.
Caution killsProfessor Von Braun and guides Natasha through the computers labyrinth,stumbling over the bodies of citizens left directionless by Alpha 60’s demise.They escape in Caution’s intergalactic Ford with Natasha awakening from hersleep recalling how to say ‘ I love you’. The Architectureof Light LemmyCaution’s light sabre Godardcalled Alphaville ‘ a film about light. Lemmy is a character who bringslight to people who no longer know what that is.
‘ (Godard, cited inBrody, 2008,p229). The first image we are shown is that of a bright flashinglight.It opens the film with a hypnotic flicker, its intensity unsettling. Itreappears as a car’s headlight, then becomes the car’s indicator signalling a leftturn. Later on it’s a light bulb swaying back and forth, the flash of Caution’sinstamatic camera, the flicker of fluorescent ceiling lights, the suggestion ofneon lights. The flashing light is characteristic of modernity and appropriateto Alphaville, but it’s also crucial in itself (without interpretation)as a filmic image.
Afterthe flashing lights we see a train cross a bridge in the darkness, itsilluminated windows loom blankly. Close up of a traffic sign, ALPHAVILLE.SILENCE.
LOGIC. SAFETY. PRUDENCE. Lemmy’s car leaves the busy boulevard andpulls up at the entrance to an anonymous hotel.The camera tracks close behind him as he passesthrough the multiple glass doors and reflections to cross the reception.In the lift he puts acigarette to his lips, but deep in thought, doesn’t light it. The lift boyholds out his hand for a tip.
Instead of giving one, Lemmy lights his cigaretteand snaps shut his lighter. These first moments of Alphaville arecaptivating, yet nothing formal unfolds, Godard’s images of light speak for themselves . In onesequence the material of Alphaville reveals itself completely. Thearchitecture of shimmering light is the film.From A Bout de Souffleonwards, Godard was committed to filming in natural light and to the method oflocation shooting as opposed to the artificial light of the film studio .
Torealise his idea of making the present look like the dystopian future, Godardcreated an atmosphere of high contrast without using any additional lights, regardlessof low light conditions. Suzanne Schiffman recalled: ‘Thesensitive film stock gives the image a lunar aspect,’ Godard explained. ‘ Itwas very important to me. I wanted an expressionistic style.
In filming thingsthat we see every day, I wanted them to arouse fear. Without cheating. Thethings are there. One looks at them. And suddenly, one discovers that they arenot at all as one had thought.'(Godard, cited in Brody, 2008,p229) It is notonly the technical innovations of its cinematography and lightning that makes Alphavilleso rich ,but also because light is both the substance and theme of thefilm, treated on so many different levels.
Pushed to extremes of luminosity andshadow, the film seeks as quoted above, the haunted light of Germanexpressionism and film noir. Paris is transformed into Alphaville, Cityof Night and Capital of Pain. The voluntary prisoners of Alphaville depend onlight and electricity to survive, but, as Kaja Silverman has observed, ‘Theyhave forgotten the sacred origins of light. With his cigarette lighter, Lemmyseeks to reignite their memories. He is Prometheus once again carrying firefrom the gods to humanity.’ (Silverman, 1998, p60). The most powerful weapon in Lemmy’sarmoury of light is given to him by Henry Dickson, a former spy.
With his dyingbreath Harry instructs Lemmy to destroy Alpha 60 and indicates a book hiddenbeneath his pillow. It is a book of poetry: Capital de la douleur(City of pain) by PaulEluard. In Alphaville , poetry will be the pathway to conscience, to love – andto freedom. Armed with this ‘codebook’ Lemmy becomes the agent of lyricillumination, the Guardian of all the forbidden words – ‘love’,’consciousness’,’tenderness’- to which the voluntary prisoners of Alphaville have had removed from memory. TO BEDEVELOPED FURTHERSUPPORTINGMATERIAL Distopia,A Brief History Muchof Alphaville is derivative of other dystopian futures, the obvious reference is George Orwell’s 1984.Howeverit is difficult to think of any parallel work which so successfully shows thefuture in the present, and which can sustain viewings to the present day. 500Words Visionsof Paris Thenew wave aesthetic of shooting in the street reaches a high point inAlphaville.
Godard filmed in some of the newest modern structures in Paris,including Maison de l’ORTF, the headquarters of French National radio andtelevision, which was constructed in 1956 and 1963 and took the form of acircular ring sheathed in glistening metal surrounding a central tower. Otherlocations included the Esso building in La Defense, the new business districton the western edge of the city that, built between1958 and 1969, endowed Pariswith the monolithic corporate skyline of a 20th-century world city. Inaddition, we are given a glimpse of the high-rise housing blocks of the grandensembles known as HLMs ( ‘ Habitiations a Loyer Moderes’,or socialhousing), sardonically recast by Godard also as Hopitaux de la Longe Maladie'(‘Hospitals for Long Illnesses’ HLM),housing the voluntary prisoners of Alphaville. Supermodernity ‘Architecturein film is never just itself’,says Peter Woolen, and this is true of Alphaville.Drawing on the work of the Frenchethnographer Marc Auge, Woolen considers how his idea of space in the contemporaryworld as dividing into ‘place’ and ‘non place’ might be applied to cinema .(Woolen,2002,p199).
According toAuge, the non-place is the transitional space we experience in airports,service stations, supermarkets and hotels etc.. These are spaces devoid ofancestral features, historical associations and private meanings – all thethings that combine to give ‘ space’ a sense of ‘place’.
Non – place is allsigns, instructions, advertising, and images. Non-place is the future of whatAuge calls ‘super modernity’. Alphavilleis almost entirely made up of architectural non-places: the city is a networkof transitional zones – corridors, staircases, offices, hotels rooms all withtheir typical signage – arrows, symbols, numbers, neon. The narrative spacethat Godard constructs from the city is a labyrinth. Bibliography Brody,R. (2008) Everything Is Cinema.
London:Faber and Faber.Silverman,K(1998) Speaking about Godard. New York.
NYU Press.Auge,M.(1995) Non places-Introduction to an Anthropology ofSupermodernity.London.Verso.Woolen, P (2002) Architecture and Film : Places andNon-Places,New York. Verso Jean luc godard arguable the worst film maker inhistory, while also being on the of the greatest directors the medium has everseen.the paradox is that godard is not a filmaker, he has never made films, hehas unmade them.
and in so doing he gave cinema new form a new content with newdirection.unlike say Griffith,eisenstien,or welles who were devoted toconstructing stories, Godard focused on how stories are constructed.plot andhuman behaviour did not interest him anywhere near as much as films vocabularyand syntax .instead of building dramatic tension he broke film grammar.he tookthe most basic element of cinema the wide shot, close up or tracking shot andshattered its ability to function.
by inventing the jump -cut he disected whatfilm records, time and space, and then having taken apart time and space he cutagain, this time splitting the sound from the image so you neither heard whatyou were seeing nor saw what you were hearing.in that way godard exposed a films construction unmade cinema and remadethe meduioum. DICK caveat quote