Alternating images from Charlie Chaplin's A King in New York (1957) and Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville (1965):
Much of Godard and Chaplin's concerns within these individual films are the same, and indeed A King In New York is on Godard's Top Ten of 1957 list, as well as topping Cahiers' overall list for that year. Buildings are terrifying, expressionistic structures of glass and steel. Violence is strange and jolting, both to the observer and the victim. We are forced to turn left or right, rather than making the conscious decision to do so. Both films take place in hotel rooms-galore, and in both cases the hotel's service consists of robotic human beings who understand nothing but complacency and subservience. The dawn of consumerism is a target of both works as well, and in both cases women look at us seductively but without feeling, as though they are part of advertisements themselves. As usual in Chaplin, a child is a paeon of hope, though by the films end, and unusually for Chaplin, we see a child turned into an emotional wreck, stripped of his values by authorities in perhaps the most devastating of all of Chaplin's endings. In this context, Godard's film is even more terrifying. Made nearly ten years on, and taking place in an immediate, dystopian future, there are no children at all.
Part of our on-going series, Echoes.