Monday, November 26, 2018
2018 Blind Spot Series: Alice in the Cities
Directed by Wim Wenders and written by Wenders and Veith von Furstenberg, Alice in den Stadten (Alice in the Cities) is the story of a German journalist driving through America struggling with his assignment as he later meets a young girl whom he takes back home to Germany. The first film in a trilogy of films relating to the road, the film is an exploration of a man exploring his surroundings while dealing with the loneliness of traveling. Starring Rudiger Vogler, Yella Rottlander, Lisa Kreuzer, Edda Kochl, Ernest Boehm, Sam Presti, Lois Moran, and Didi Petrikat. Alice in den Stadten is an evocative and rapturous film from Wim Wenders.
The film is about a German journalist’s journey from America and returning home to Germany with a young girl as his traveling companion after her mother had abandoned her when they decided to return to Germany. At first, the journalist and young girl aren’t fond of each other but then become friends as they try to find the home of the young girl’s grandmother. It’s a film with a simple premise that play into a man trying to connect with his surroundings for his job only to end up with nothing as he decides to go back home. The film’s screenplay by Wim Wenders and Veith von Furstenberg follow the trip that journalist Philip Winter (Rudiger Volger) is taking through America as he finds the whole trip unfulfilling where he misses hid deadline and decides to return to Germany.
While stopping in New York City to meet with his editor, Winter meets a woman in Lisa (Lisa Kreuzer) and her daughter Alice (Yella Rottlander) who both are trying to return to Germany but an air controller strike forces the three to take a flight to Amsterdam. Unfortunately, Lisa stays behind to deal with a lover claiming she would meet them in Amsterdam where Winter and Alice both realize that she isn’t coming to Amsterdam. This prompts Winter and Alice to travel from Amsterdam to Germany to drop Alice at the home of her grandmother where the journey has the two travel knowing each other with Winter finding fulfillment and Alice finding someone she can rely on.
Wenders’ direction is definitely intimate as the film is largely shot on black-and-white 16mm film while it would have something that is loose in its presentation as it is shot on various locations in America and Germany including New York City, Wuppertal, Ruhr, and Amsterdam. Wenders’ direction would have him create simple compositions to play into Winter’s own sense of isolation in America as he’s driving around the country to find a story that he can be enamored with. Wenders’ direction for the scenes on the road has this element of the unknown and bewilderment where Winter would shoot something on a Polaroid camera as a way to find something extraordinary in something ordinary. The usage of the wide and medium shots help play into the vast locations that occur in the film while also adding a sense of wonderment to the journey that Winter and Alice take upon their arrival to Amsterdam and later Germany. Wenders’ usage of close-ups and medium shots do play into the interaction as well as scenes inside a car or in a hotel room where they gaze into the world they’re in. Even as Winter and Alice find something in their journey that doesn’t have any planning or no sense of direction that makes it an immersive experience. Overall, Wenders crafts an intoxicating yet somber film about a journalist and a young girl taking a trip from America to Germany to take the latter home.
Cinematographer Robby Muller does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white 16mm photography as it has a sense of grit into the scenes at night as well as a beauty for many of the exterior locations in the film. Editor Peter Przygodda does excellent work with the editing as it does have bits of style in the jump-cuts and fade-outs while much of it is straightforward. The sound work of Martin Muller is terrific for its natural approach to sound in the way trains and cars are heard outside of a room. The film’s music by Can is superb for its low-key yet plaintive folk-based score with elements of electronics while the music soundtrack on the film is presented in a diegetic form as it features music from Chuck Berry, Deep Purple, the Drifters, Canned Heat, the Rolling Stones, Count Five, Domenico Modungo, and Stories.
The film’s wonderful cast include some notable small roles and appearances from Chuck Berry as himself in a concert footage where Winter goes to his show, Lois Moran as an airport attendant, Edda Kochl as a friend of Winter in New York City in Angela, Sam Presti as a car dealer in New York City, Ernest Boehm as Winter’s publisher, and Didi Petrikat as a friend of Winter in Frankfurt. Lisa Kreuzer is brilliant as Alice’s mother Lisa as a woman wanting to go home yet is still enamored with the man she broke up with as she stays behind to try and repair that relationship. Yella Rottlander is amazing as Alice as a young girl who deals with being abandoned by her mother and dealing with being on the road and traveling where she finds some comfort in Winter whom she eventually grows to like. Finally, there’s Rudiger Volger in an incredible performance as Philip Winter as a journalist who is disillusioned by his trip to America prompting him to return home where his journey back home with this young girl would make him find the things he’s been searching for as well as find joy in his life.
Alice in den Stadten is a phenomenal film from Wim Wenders. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, a minimalist yet engaging story, and a superb soundtrack from Can. It’s a road film that play into the sense of wonderment by the environment two people are in as they try to return home while finding something else entirely along the way. In the end, Alice in den Stadten is a sensational film from Wim Wenders.
Wim Wenders Films: (Summer in the City) - (The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty) - (The Scarlet Letter (1973 film)) - Wrong Move - Kings of the Road – The American Friend - (Lightning Over Water) - (Room 666) - (Hammett) - (The State of Things) – Paris, Texas - (Tokyo-Ga) – Wings of Desire - (Notebook on Cities and Clothes) – Until the End of the World - (Faraway, So Close!) - (Lisbon Story) - (Beyond the Clouds) - (A Trick of Light) - (The End of Violence) - (Buena Vista Social Club) - (The Million Dollar Hotel) - (The Soul of a Man) - (Land of Plenty) - (Don’t Come Knocking) - (The Palermo Shooting) - (Pina) - Salt of the Earth - (Every Thing Will Be Fine) – (The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez) – (Submergence) - (Pope Francis: A Man of His Word)
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