Developed by the Alphaville Urbanismo Corporation in the 1970s, Alphaville São Paolo ‘resembles its fictional namesake in elaborate and all-encompassing surveillance techniques’ writes an American professor of urban studies, ‘including high walls, hidden cameras and alarm systems … The Alphaville gym specializes in self-defence and is called CIA.’ The facts about the development get better, or still worse, depending on whether one prefers dystopia to remain firmly in the realms of fiction or to come fully fledged to life:
To advertise Alphaville, the company sponsored some episodes of a popular prime-time Brazilian soap opera whose leading male character is an architect. The architect and his mistress visit Alphaville where, according to Brazil’s Gazeta Mercantil, the characters exalt the safety, freedom and planning of the place, comparing it to the neighbourhoods shown in US films.
And so … Godard’s film about a city of the future, shot on location in the Paris of the mid-1960s, has endowed not just one but thirty ‘gated communities’ in Brazil with its name. And reality, having provided fiction with the raw material for its most dystopian scenarios, returns the compliment by materialising them. The back-and-forth between image and reality is dizzying: from CCTV to soap opera, from European art cinema to aspirational Hollywood and back again. Where does the utopian projection end and dystopian reality begin?
From Visions of the City