A Rough Guide to Wim Wenders

There’s been quite a buzz about our screening of “Paris, Texas” next weekend so we thought you might like some background info on director Wim Wenders and his work. Please welcome this month’s guest blogger Simon Wardell, who we hope will be writing for us from time to time. Thank you, Simon!

Five Films by Wim Wenders

As a primer for Paris, Texas, here are five other films by Wim Wenders to track down at your leisure. They’re a snapshot of him at his best, from early German New Wave road movies to later documentary successes, many of them infused with the same American sensibilities – in genre, style, subject matter – that crop up in his 1984 classic.

Alice In The Cities

images-1A disaffected, rootless German writer in America (Rüdiger Vogler) finds himself stuck with a young girl (the wonderful Yella Rottländer) abandoned by her mother, and reluctantly takes her back home to Germany to look for her grandmother. This black-and-white film from 1974 doesn’t give up its pleasures easily, but it has some arch things to say about American culture, and finds its heart in the slowly realised, defiantly unsentimental friendship between the two protagonists.


Kings Of The Road

images-1Another of Wenders’s German road movie trilogy, this three-hour 1976 drama is an ambivalent look at love, communication and the iniquities of western civilisation (“The Yanks have colonised our subconscious,” a character comments at one point). A film projector repairman (Vogler) and a depressed hitchhiker (Hanns Zischler) meander near the border between East and West Germany, visiting dilapidated cinemas. There’s probably even less drama here than in Alice In The Cities, undercutting our expectations of the Western-style buddy picture it could have been in lesser hands.

[amateur trailer] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q17Ig6vdiv0

[some stills] http://www.axiomfilms.co.uk/films/wim-wenders/kings-of-the-road.html

The American Friend

imagesIn his multi-faceted 1977 adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley’s Game, Wenders shuttles from road movie to film noir, giving a European slant on another typically American genre. Bruno Ganz is a (supposedly) terminally ill picture framer manipulated by Dennis Hopper’s American criminal Ripley into becoming a hit man. The plot, as much as you’re allowed to follow it, is again secondary to one of Wenders’s odd-couple pairings, with Ganz and Hopper excelling.


Wings Of Desire

images-2Bruno Ganz again, but in this sumptuous 1987 romantic drama, he’s an angel in West Berlin. One of many celestial beings flitting around the city, Damiel is meant to merely bear witness to the troubled lives of its inhabitants, but when he falls for Solveig Dommartin’s trapeze artist, he yearns to shed his angelic state and experience humanity first-hand. Wenders has fashioned a gentle, melancholic film here, with the then-divided Berlin as much of a character as the people, and it features an affecting cameo from Peter Falk.

official trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ic8iGIdv80o

Buena Vista Social Club

images-1Wenders has been making documentaries regularly since the 80s, and, arguably, is more famous for them than his fiction nowadays. This is his best-known, a 1999 profile of a variety of forgotten, ageing Cuban musicians, who were brought together by Paris, Texas collaborator Ry Cooder to recreate the songs that brought them fame decades earlier. It’s a joy from start to finish, with the characterful singers and players revelling in their chance to shine again – and the music is glorious.

official trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwyGPg8cYvY

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