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Tarzan Vs. IBM: Humans and Computers in Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville (Critical Essay)

Film Criticism 2008, Fall, 33, 1

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In contrast with the utopian perspectives on science and technology that pervaded much of the discourse concerning computers in the 1960s, Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville [Alphaville, une etrange aventure de Lemmy Caution] (1965) explores an alternative, humanist critique of technology--albeit one necessarily realized, and therefore complicated, by the technics of cinema. With the development and rapid proliferation of the computer, the notion that advanced technology might fundamentally alter our existence gained increasing currency, leading to a polarization of perspectives, from the technophilic to the technophobic. Where the likes of Marshall McLuhan and Buckminster Fuller generally, if not always, celebrated the utopian potential of the "extensions of man" (McLuhan 1964) and proposed a new "operating manual for spaceship Earth" (Fuller 1969), Godard speculated on the potentially catastrophic uses of the computer to enslave rather than liberate humanity. Central to this vision is the projection of a technocratic state. In this sense, Alphaville exists as a realization of what theorist Jacques Ellul described as "the technological society" (1964), in which machines underpin an ideology founded on the prioritization of technical and scientific know ledge. Extending the humanist critique of such a society--a position espoused in various hues by Ellul, Lewis Mumford (1934, 1967, 1970), Herbert Marcuse (1964, 1969), and others--Godard's film portrays the tragedy of a future in which rationality, organization, predictability, and efficiency--qualities popularly associated with the pre-personal computer--have triumphed over individuality, emotion, spontaneity, and creativity.

Tarzan Vs. IBM: Humans and Computers in Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville (Critical Essay)
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  • Category: Performing Arts
  • Published: 22 September 2008
  • Publisher: Allegheny College
  • Print Length: 25 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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