Mourir de ne pas Mourir

Edmund Hardy

Anna Karina as Natasha von Braun, holding Éluard's La Capitale de la Douleur, in Godard's Alphaville

The poets have gone underground in the city where people are denied the grace to die: only the truth, named Lemmy Caution, embodied in a myth, will walk into this city, play the lyre and free Natasha von Braun (Anna Karina). Don't look back, he says, trench-coat Orpheus at the wheel. The pulp idea that poetry will be a weapon, that it will "confuse" the logic of the super-computer; the plot, signalled by three stages of repetitive sound cues, turns from constant revelation to mystery to stirrings of freedom/love. The key is a copy of Paul Éluard's La Capitale de la Douleur, taken from beneath the pillow of a dead man. Turn the light on, turn it off, walk towards me, the body is a dialogue; and who speaks, in those moments when Lemmy Caution stills the parody and a recitation takes place? Sometimes, we want to say, it's Godard, or Éluard, or Eddie Constantine playing Lemmy Caution, or the Bible (a dictionary) or, at other times, the ground between all these.

La courbe de tes yeux fait le tour de mon coeur

A tattered copy of the Éluard book only has to appear for the text to become an irrecusable texture, for the city of pain to be Alphaville and to be that part of the filmic event which is not simply what happens, the part Deleuze spoke of when he found that, for these films, "A new type of actor was needed: not simply the non-professional actors that neo-realism had revived at the beginning, but what might be called professional non-actors, or, better, 'actor-mediums', capable of seeing and showing rather than acting, and either remaining dumb or undertaking some never-ending conversation" (Cinema 2, London: The Athlone Press, 1989, p20), and Éluard is brought into that dialogue with our bodies' own dialogic murmurs as Karina reads.

What do you believe in? asks Alpha-60
The inspirations of conscience, says Lemmy Caution.

Might that also be an answer to Bruno Forestier's questions, as he paces back and forth before a bright, white window of sunlight towards the end of Le Petit Soldat, "There must be more than an ideal, but what? More than winning, but what?" The questions are answered, may one hope, with better questions, though the conversation could be punctuated at the last resort with force, which is always stronger than intelligence, the girl in Les Carabiniers who is shot for reciting Mayakovsky.


So it is that this texture comes back as the video for Kelly Osbourne's 'One Word', all the props of Alphaville - the staircase, neon signs, circles, interrogation rooms - in a surprisingly faithful travesty, even down to the synchronised-swimming pool massacre. Unlike the band Blur's miniaturisation of L'Année dernière à Marienbad for their song
'To The End', Osbourne's video changes its source, placing Natasha at the front and leading her would-be torturers down the corridor; she has the camera with its lens, not Caution; her dress has white fur at the hem, like Karina's, but the fur is bigger, grown ridiculous. Yet the 'one word' is still, as in Godard, "love", and it is still unspoken...

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