Wim Wenders: Portraits Along the Road

Sunday evenings in April at Railroad Square Cinema, 17 Railroad Square, Waterville
Free admission! (first come basis)
Sponsored by Colby College Cinema Studies

Wim Wenders is cinema’s preeminent poet of the open road, soulfully following the journeys of people as they search for themselves. During his over-forty-year career, Wenders has directed films in his native Germany and around the globe, making dramas both intense and whimsical, mysteries, fantasies, and documentaries. With this retrospective of four of his films—from early works of the New German Cinema (Kings of the Road, The American Friend) to the art-house 1980s blockbusters that made him a cinematic household name (Paris, Texas; Wings of Desire)—audiences can discover and rediscover Wenders’ vast cinematic world in sparkling new DCP restorations!

WingsWINGS OF DESIRE
April 3, 7:15 p.m.
Wings of Desire marked Wenders’ homecoming and was his first German film after eight years in America. The main characters are guardian angels—benevolent, invisible beings in trench coats—who listen to the thoughts of mortals and attempt to comfort them. One of them, Damiel (Bruno Ganz), wishes to become human after he falls in love with the beautiful trapeze artist Marion (Solveig Dommartin). Peter Falk, playing himself, helps Damiel during his transformation by introducing him to life’s little pleasures. The film is narrated from the perspective of the angels, who see the world in black and white. Only when Damiel becomes human does the world of color reveal itself to him. He leaves behind his old friend Cassiel (Otto Sander), who continues to be accompanied by Homer (Curt Bois), the “storyteller of humanity.” The film has achieved cult status around the world; in 1998, it was remade under the title City of Angels, with Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan in the lead roles. In English and in German and French with English subtitles. PG-13. 128 Min. 1987.

ParisPARIS, TEXAS
April 10, 7:15 p.m.
Paris, Texas is Wenders’ best-known and internationally most successful film. Celebrated by critics, it won a series of important international awards, including the Palme d’Or at Cannes. This unconventional road movie is based on a script by Pulitzer Prize winner Sam Shepard and tells the story of Travis (Harry Dean Stanton), a man who wanders out of Mexico and into the blazing heat of Texas’s Big Bend one day. Travis does not speak a word. He also seems to have largely lost his memory. But he is driven by his wish to find his family again: his young wife, Jane (Nastassja Kinski), whose life he seems to have placed in danger through his pathological jealousy, and his seven-year-old son, Hunter (Hunter Carson). For four years, Travis was thought to be dead. His brother, Walt (Dean Stockwell), flies from L.A. to Texas to bring back his lost sibling. Walt and his wife, Ann (Aurore Clément), have become Hunter’s foster parents. It is very difficult for the two of them to now give up this role, especially when they learn that Travis wants to take his son in search of Jane. They know nothing about her, except that she probably lives in Houston . .. . In addition to impressive performances by Stanton as Travis and Kinski as Jane, a unique soundtrack by Ry Cooder makes Paris, Texas a uniquely memorable experience. R. 148 Min. 1984.

KingsofRoadKINGS OF THE ROAD
April 17, 7:15 p.m.
Kings of the Road is about a friendship between two men: Bruno, a.k.a. King of the Road (Rüdiger Vogler), who repairs film projectors and travels along the inner German border in his truck, and the psychologist Robert, a.k.a. Kamikaze (Hanns Zischler), who is fleeing from his own past. When Robert drives his old Volkswagen straight into the Elbe River, he is fished out by Bruno. This is the beginning of their shared journey through a German no-man’s-land, a journey that leads them from the Lüneburg Heath to the Bavarian Forest. Wenders began the film without a script. Instead, there was a route that he had scouted out beforehand: through all of the little towns along the Wall that still contained a movie theater in this era of cinematic mass extinction. The old moving van with the film projectors in the back becomes a metaphor for the history of film—it is no coincidence that the film is dedicated to Fritz Lang. This “men’s story” also treats the themes of the absence of women, of loneliness, and of postwar Germany. At one point, Bruno says to Robert: “The Yankees have colonized our subconscious.” And now it is Wenders who colonizes ours. In German with English subtitles. Unrated. 175 Min. 1975.

AmericanFriendTHE AMERICAN FRIEND
April 24, 7:15 p.m.
In 1977, The American Friend won the German Critics Prize as well as gold in two categories of the German Film Prize—and a devoted following among many of us who think it one of the best films of the last four decades. Wenders adapted Patricia Highsmith’s novel Ripley’s Game for the film. Jonathan Zimmermann (Bruno Ganz) believes that he will soon die of leukemia. The unscrupulous American Tom Ripley (Dennis Hopper) learns of this and exploits Zimmermann’s illness for his own purposes. He introduces Jonathan to the underworld figure Minot (Gérard Blain), who offers to hire the terminally ill man as a professional hit man. He is to be paid appropriately for his work and thus enabled to leave something behind for his wife (Lisa Kreuzer) and their child. What does he have to lose, since he is going to die anyway? A friendship develops between the two very different men, and this ultimately leads Ripley to intervene when Zimmermann proves incapable of carrying out an additional murder. The cast of Wenders’s film includes not only the directors Hopper and Blain but also filmmakers in many of the supporting roles of gangsters, such as Hollywood legends Sam Fuller and Nicholas Ray, as well as Peter Lilienthal, Daniel Schmid, and Jean Eustache. Unrated. In English and in German and French with English subtitles. 126 Min. 1977.

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