Funny:  I’d always assumed that, in the future, there’d be nothing but techno (see, for example, the subterranean rave in The Matrix Reloaded).  But Godard loves defying expectations.  So, in Alphaville, instead of the futuristic soundtrack one expects from a film nominally set in the future, we get ominous horn stabs as Lemmy Caution goes about his dirty business.  (Of course, Kraftwerk doesn’t put out Autobahn until nearly a decade after Alphaville — so while supercomputer Alpha 60 has the vocoder thing down, it still needs to work on the bangin’ beats.)

There is, however, a more explicit reason why I link Alphaville with techno.  During my “industrial” phase of high school — my junior and senior years — my music collecting began in earnest.  I kept an index card of band names that I wanted to check out between the pages of a dictionary.  I came across most of these on Teletunes, a music video show that played in the wee hours on Denver’s secondary PBS-affiliate, KDBI, or on the local “alternative” radio station, KTCL, long before it got gobbled up by Clear Channel and changed formats.  In bookstores, I scanned the magazine racks for angry, glowering Germans who wore studded leather jackets and stood pouting with their arms crossed.  That, I thought, has got to be a cool band.

So with this, I hunted down Laibach.  I knew little about them except that they had released an album, Kapital.  So I made a pilgrimage down to Wax Trax to pick it up, not knowing that Laibach is Slovenia’s second-best export after Strast chocolates.  Indeed, the band is probably best known for their possibly Leni Riefenstahl-inspired version of the Beatles’ “Across the Universe.” On Kapital, I was drawn to their militaristic rhythms and Wagnerian bombast.

But the track that most grabbed my attention was “Le Privilège des Morts,” an ominous track with a deep sub-bass and a distorted, computerized voice speaking French.  With my busted, high-school French, I understood maybe every other sentence, but listening to it — with headphones late at night, lights off, eyes closed — evoked suffocation, claustrophobia, especially with the repeated last phrase:  “La porte est blockée.”  I didn’t realize it, but “Le Privilège des Morts” was composed primarily from snippets of dialogue and sound effects from Alphaville.  The song takes its title, for example, from Lemmy Caution’s first interrogation by Alpha 60.  When Anna Karina reads from Paul Éluard’s Capitale de la Douleur, mid-song, she whispers it like a cri de couer, and, when they lift the condemned man’s speech on the diving board wholesale (before he’s dismembered by synchronized swimmers, no less), I didn’t comprehend the man’s harangue, but I knew some bad shit was going down.

So when, almost a decade later, I finally watched Alphaville, it was a moment of déjà vu (possibly déjà ecouté?).  I didn’t experience the film as much as I re-edited it to fit my memory of “Le Privilège des Morts”:  Here’s where this bit came from.  Oh, so that’s what that meant. I don’t Godard would mind, given his own penchant for cobbling together disparate parts — detective noir, science fiction, futurist architecture — into a memorable, haunting whole.

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