Unnecessary Remake of Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville to Reflect Today’s World

By  · Published on January 12th, 2015

Janus FIlms

That Godard is so hot right now. I don’t even need to write his first name in the lead-in. His recent 3D film, Goodbye to Language, was named the best picture of 2014 by the National Society of Film Critics, and when that sort of thing happens you can bet Hollywood will come calling. Never mind that Godard has been around and considered one of the masters of cinema for more than half a century, and never mind that there’s not really anything the American studios could do with the material in that acclaimed new film (nor have they optioned any of the other foreign films the NSFC have honored in the top slot, as far as I can recall). They don’t need to remake Goodbye to Language, anyway, because Godard has decades worth of output to mine from. His most famous, Breathless, has already been recycled, but Alphaville is apparently up for the taking.

And now it’s been taken. According to The Wrap, Twin Peaks cinematographer Frank Byers optioned the 1965 sci-fi film from Godard with his own money and will make his directorial debut with a “fresh take on the story that aims to reflect what’s happening in today’s political climate.” The script for this indie version is by writer/director Franc. Reyes (Empire), who previously employed Byers as a director of photography on his films. Frankly, I’m surprised this one hasn’t been remade sooner. We’re coming up on its 50th anniversary this Spring, and while it inspired a low-budget Hollywood movie in the early ’90s called Megaville, not to mention influenced many others, this will be the first real redo.

Whether the “freshness” of the project means that it will eschew the film noir style of the original, which was a pioneer of the sort of hybrid that mashes futuristic tech and usually dystopian themes with the look of post-war detective movies, is to be seen. Without that, though, it’s not quite Alphaville — just another typical, pulpy sci-fi/noir film that doesn’t quite need a legal linking to previously existing material if played loose enough. That’s not to reduce what Godard did with the stuff, but what Godard does with stuff isn’t replicable. It’s probably better to say that without Godard it’s not Alphaville anyway, firstly (and without Anna Karina it’s barely anything). There’s a reason movies like Alphaville and Fassbinder’s World on a Wire and other old sci-fi films by foreign auteurs haven’t been officially recycled already, and it has a lot to do with the auteur aspect.

I’m always a great defender of remaking movies, but it’s hard to see the point in remaking Godard. It’s been more understandable and appropriate that Alphaville has indirectly informed works in its wake, just as Godard took from works that came before.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.