Wim Wenders retrospective at the Cinematheque.
Some great films are playing. I love Wenders' adaptation of what really amounts to a couple of Patricia Highsmith Ripley novels, The American Friend. It's not that faithful a representation of Highsmith, but Bruno Ganz and Dennis Hopper are fantastic, and there's all these bits of clever intertextuality for knowing cinephiles, from cameos from filmmakers like Sam Fuller and a very charismatic Nicholas Ray to having Dennis Hopper quote dramatically from "The Ballad of Easy Rider." If you like restrained, intelligent European neo-noirs made with self-reflexive wit and great craft, it's essential viewing; even if you don't get the in-jokes, Ganz is great as an innocent frame-maker who is pushed into serving as a hitman, and Hopper - who was in one of his darker periods when making this film - pulls off a great turn as Ripley (yes, the same Ripley played by Alain Delon, Matt Damon, and John Malkovich, among others).
Alice in the Cities, which is one of Wenders' most important films - a sad, slyly funny, and ultimately rather gentle tale of an alienated German photographer, adrift in America, whose angst is to some extent healed by his travels with a young girl, who is abandoned in his care. Accused by some of coming too close at a few points to Paper Moon, it was one of those key films of my teens and 20's, which I watched over and over again, trying to tease out implications, treating it like a sacred text, the understanding of which would raise me above my maddening suburban imprisonment. The relationship of Wenders' lost German wanderers to American popular culture echoed my own hunger to find meaning and direction in images and art, groping in a landscape that seemed then (and now, really) to be pretty culturally desolate, and at times even hostile to reflectiveness.
one key song, in particular, replaced with something far less meaningful...
Paris, Texas, which is for me one of the hardest films to come to terms with in this programme. As popular as Harry Dean Stanton is these days - and as little as I would want to dissuade cinema lovers from going to see the film, which has beyond a doubt Stanton's biggest, best role, and some gorgeous cinematography - it is actually a Wenders film I have no plans to ever see again. It marks, for me, what was the beginning of a huge shift in Wenders' cinema, from the days when he was a German filmmaker and peer of Herzog and Fassbinder to... whatever it is exactly he's become now, which is something I don't really understand. It's his first full-on American movie, for one thing (Hammett doesn't really count). The Cinematheque programme describes it as "one of Wenders' finest achievements" but even back when I was a huge Wenders fan - back when I hadn't had to grapple with The Million Dollar Hotel and The End of Violence and so forth - part of me found it (sorry) a little bloated, a little false, a little too aware of and in love with its own artistry. Wenders international success seemed back then to have gone to his head, and the obviousness of that fact managed to always insinuate itself between me and the things about the film I was trying to like. There were many powerful, moving moments; there's a great Ry Cooder soundtrack, a surprising little cameo from John Lurie - but I never could quite convince myself that the film was as big a masterpiece as both it and everyone else seemed to believe itself to be.
The State of Things - one of Wenders most cynical films, made as a side-project when he was struggling with his first attempt to make a film in America - an ill-fated biographical thriller called Hammett, which is not screening (the only version of the film that I'm aware of is apparently more the work of Francis Ford Coppola, the producer, than Wenders). The State of Things comes in three movements, all represented in gorgeous black-and-white photography (from Henri Alekan). It begins as a film-within-a-film, a science fiction movie that is being shot in Portugal by Wenders' representative within the film, played by Patrick Bauchau - the blind guy from Carnival, if you've seen that series.