Film Notes: THE AMERICAN FRIEND Wim Wenders (1977)

‘A Patricia Highsmith adaptation, one of her Ripley Books?’
‘Well yes, but no.’

This is a loose adaptation. So loose it becomes untied. If you are expecting a tight taught thriller, the kind of film Highsmith adaptations are in the hands of lesser directors then you’ll be disappointed. Because this is Wim Wenders. And he can’t help himself. I am sure he knows all the Hollywood tricks of the trade, how to wind you up and let you go, build suspense, and then twist it some more. But why do that when you can let the camera linger on a beautiful shot? Good thrillers can make you feel like you have played with, used up and spat out. Like losing a game of chess to someone with a clever, cold, strategic mind. Hitchcock. Brilliant, but hell, he’d be a nasty piece of work as a boyfriend. Wim Wenders makes you feel as if you have been in the presence of a damaged but open hearted human being. Someone you’d love to share a coffee with, even if he did stare at the swirls the steam rising from his cup for so long that it went cold. So don’t concern yourself too much about the plot details, of a man who thinks he is dying being recruited as an unlikely assassin as a way to provide for his family. Lose yourself instead in this visually stunning piece of German New Wave. Be hypnotised by the colour of film, drenched in red and greens, walk around seventies Hamburg with Bruno Ganz as your troubled friend. Hopper as Ripley, Ripley in Europe, and the gaze of Wenders’ camera in hotel rooms and metro tunnels make this a film we just had to share with you.

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