Germany Year 90 Nine Zero
1991, NR, 62 min. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Starring Eddie Constantine, Hanns Zischler, Claudia Michelsen, Nathalie Kadem.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 5, 1996
It figures that if Jean-Luc Godard, the reigning film provocateur of the Sixties, were to make a sequel to one of his movies, it would take him 25 years to do so. Made in 1991, Germany Year 90 Nine Zero is a follow-up to his 1965 “spy thriller” Alphaville. As before, Godard's protagonist is Lemmy Caution (once again played by Eddie Constantine in what turned out to be his last role). Though Caution is now older and wearier and the topography of his face has grown even craggier, he seems much the same as when we last saw him in '65. Europe, however, has become a much different place and it now holds no purpose for an undercover mole. With a reunited Germany and an increasingly solidified European continent, Lemmy Caution may be the true spy who came in from the cold. Without a Cold War, what's a spy in the East to do? Freed from his post, like one of those oblivious Japanese soldiers discovered in remote island foxholes years after the war was declared over, Caution is suddenly a man without a mission, a man whose very identity has been torn from his hull. The movie, which was made for French television, was commissioned as a film about the state of solitude. As a movie, Germany Year 90 Nine Zero is better characterized as a situation rather than a story. Essentially, the 62-minute-long movie follows Caution who, relieved of his duties, tries to find his way back to the West. As he traverses the wintry landscape, he asks directions from a motorist in a stalled vehicle and a Don Quixote figure perched by a windmill. No one knows. Meanwhile, Caution encounters signs of commerce everywhere, as shoppers and storekeepers busy themselves with Christmas trade. Interspersed throughout are voiceovers by Godard and others and title cards with purely linguistic stimuli. As is his style, Godard's musings span a spectrum that goes from silly to visionary. This movie ranks with some of Godard's best work (it made several critics' “top 10” lists in 1992), but it probably requires some prior familiarity with Godard's previous films in order to recognize that fact.