Remember “Alphaville”? No, I’m not talking about the cloying German band that blighted the world with “Forever Young” and “Big in Japan,” I mean the film they named themselves after, that being Jean-Luc Godard’s stylized sci-fi/noir, “Alphaville,” which concentrated on the doings of ridiculously named secret agent Lemmy Caution. I only saw it once, and while I appreciated its aesthetic (later also paid homage to by Amos Poe’s cinematic punk opus, “The Foreigner,” which I spoke about here and…..er…. the video for “Linger” by the Cranberries), I found it largely dull … not unlike large swathes of “The Foreigner,” for that matter, to say nothing of the Cranberries.
In any case, a couple of years ago, I befriended a photographer named Susan Fensten (I mentioned her here), who put up this curious film on her Facebook page earlier this week. Welcome to “Betaville.”
Shot around Lower Manhattan in 1986, “Betaville” is a loving send-up of “Alphavile,” obviously, concentrating on the exploits of a secret agent named Coman Gettme (groan). For a low-budget endeavor, it does a mighty fine job of capturing the “Alphaville” vibe (itself a low-budget endeavor), using then-available bits of similar architecture to simulate the brutalist cityscape of its inspiration.
Given my predilections, I was intrigued in that it captured many elements of the downtown NYC of 1986, notably the Water Street Digital Clock (which I spoke of back here), the suitably dystopian Con Ed plant at the eastern end of 14th Street and the futuristic light tunnel on John Street (which I spoke of here). You can catch a glimpse of my friend Susan at about 5:55, painting a canvas on a then-barren stretch of Avenue B. I also felt the club scene was vaguely reminiscent of the video for “Rapture” by Blondie.
In any case, it’s a curious artifact. See what you think!