Der Amerikanische Freund (West Germany/France, 1977)

the-american-friend-movie-poster-1977-1020465773Directed by: Wim Wenders. (Yes, I went with the German title instead of the English one just to be fancy.) I don’t really know much about Patricia Highsmith or the Ripley novels, but from what I hear, I don’t really need to. This film exists on that plane of film adaptations that stray pretty far from their source, but which result in great, individual, sometimes cult classic films. I’m not sure that this is a “cult classic” (to Wenders fans, everything he does is a classic, and there’s not that many of them, so I guess it’s a cult?), but it’s definitely a strange, unique, non-Hollywood take on a spy thriller, and though I haven’t seen The Talented Mr. Ripley, I’ll go on a limb and say that this movie has very little to do with that one. This movie jumped out at me for some basic reasons: Wim Wenders, Bruno Ganz, Dennis Hopper, Germany in the 70’s, Manhattan in the 70’s, Bruno’s moustache, Nicholas Ray with an eye patch, Sam Fuller in an acting part as the old gangster…any single one of those elements are intriguing, but all of them together? I didn’t stand a chance! I love how this movie fills the function of a regular spy thriller, full of maybe not suspense, but definitely intrigue, and all the usual stuff—guns, car chases, trench coats, murder on a fast-moving European train, mysterious strangers with French accents—while at the same time, making a lot of room for what I’m learning are those trademark Wim Wenders touches—a pregnant pause, a wistful look on someone’s face, that space that opens up when a great actors says a line of “movie-dialogue” movie dialogue but says it in a way you never heard before, and a camera that shows us that whole “making something ugly look beautiful” thing better than anyone else, whether Manhattan or Hamburg or wherever that great beach is. It’s obvious that I can’t look at this thing straight, because I’m so enamoured with every aspect of this thing. But my better judgment has to insist that this is, in fact, a pretty wonderful movie, an enjoyable viewing experience, unconventional enough to be interesting, but rooted in believable and compelling character drama that could speak to anyone. So there.

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One response to “Der Amerikanische Freund (West Germany/France, 1977)

  1. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2016 | Offhand Reviews·

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