Felt like a good time to watch this since I’d recently seen Purple Noon, and The American Friend is more or less a sequel. I don’t know how things worked in the book series, but besides some art forgery at the beginning, I’d easily believe that they’re unrelated and Dennis Hopper’s character just happens to be named Tom Ripley.

Movie connection #2: Joe vs. the Volcano. Bruno Ganz, who’s the real star of the film over Ripley/Hopper, is sick and short on money, but it turns out his doctor is exaggerating Bruno’s health problems so he’ll be desperate enough to accept a mission as assassin. This despite the fact that Bruno works in a frame shop and is not normally a killer (naturally, the working title was Framed).

Bruno, making it literal:

Movie connection #3: Barton Fink. Bruno takes an instant dislike to Hopper at a (fraudulent) art auction at the beginning, refuses to shake his hand. At the end, Hopper confesses this is why Hopper put Bruno through it all, the doomed medical prognosis and three murders.

Movie connection #4: Rushmore, via the Kinks song “Nothing In This World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ’bout That Girl”.

Cool movie, with real suspense to the spy/murder proceedings, and a visual theme of magic lanterns and other illusions. Terrific lighting, color and cinematography (by Robby Müller, natch), as far as I could tell on my DVD copy. And of course it features both Nicholas Ray (as Hopper’s painter of fakes) and Samuel Fuller (as head target “The American”, eventually thrown down stone stairs).

Ray:

Fuller:

Hopper:

Can’t say I fully understood Ripley’s involvement in the whole plot, nor why Bruno has to die at the end (Wenders loves when everyone dies at the end). Ebert says it’s not important. Dave Kehr says that’s the whole idea: “The plot, laid out baldly, gives only a thin impression of the film itself. For one thing, Wenders has systematically eliminated most of the purely expository scenes (purposefully, after shooting them). … We already know the story, having seen its variations in a hundred films.”

Film Quarterly says it cost more than Wenders’s previous five films combined. Won best editing and direction in Germany and played at Cannes along with 3 Women, The Duellists and Padre Padrone.

Hopper’s follow-up to Apocalypse Now, which wouldn’t be released for two more years. Bruno was between The Marquise of O and Nosferatu. As his wife: Lisa Kreuzer of Radio On and Alice in the Cities. Gerard Blain (star of Chabrol’s Les Cousins and Le Beau Serge) is the guy who gives Bruno his assignment, and Lou Castel (star of Fists in the Pocket and Beware of a Holy Whore) is his driver/overseer. Semi-remade a couple times, once with Malkovich as Ripley and once with Barry Pepper.

“Making movies is suicide.”

Watched this right after Ruiz’s The Territory.

Alexander Graf quoted by Michael Goddard: “The story is based on the situation [Wenders] found when he visited [Ruiz] in Portugal to charitably bring black and white film stock to a stranded film-crew whose finances were exhausted: their story became the background to the story for The State of Things, in which he films the crew – some of whom were borrowed from the real stranded crew – in the act of waiting.”

Opens as a sepia-toned post-apocalyptic sci-fi film starring The Territory cast, and after a few minutes turns to silvery black-and-white behind-the-scenes, with Sam Fuller playing the cinematographer, and Patrick Bauchau (Rohmer’s La Collectionneuse) as the director Fritz. After a close-up shot, Fuller tells Fritz they’re out of film. The crew gets down time, hangs around their hotel, everyone assuming the producer can send more film soon, but after a few days Fuller hears that his estranged wife has died and returns to the States, soon followed by Fritz who wants to find their producer Gordon.

Sam and Fritz:

This first half is great, from the sci-fi stuff to the beautifully shot (by Alekan again) boredom and cast/crew artistic hobbies. Then in the States, Wenders thinks we need a pulp plot. Gordon’s lawyer (Roger Corman, who supposedly helped produce The Territory) won’t say where Gordon is, but Fritz finds his mobile home and goes for a ride, finding out Gordon (Allen Garfield, a Gene Hackman type, of Hi, Mom! and Putney Swope) is broke, never paid for the movie in the first place (the screenwriter did), and owes money to gangsters, who inevitably catch up and kill both men. The very ending is a highlight, Fritz pulling out his camera, holding it like a gun while searching for the shooter.

Movie references about. Fuller himself makes a Forty Guns reference, pointed shots of a marquee with The Searchers and Fritz Lang’s star on the walk of fame. Billboards for 1980-81 movies like Caveman, The Jazz Singer and Ordinary People. Wenders was in his classic American cinema phase, having just worked with Nicholas Ray and made a couple of detective movies.

Corman:

Fuller’s driver: “I take pictures, photographs, but I never really thought in black and white before I saw our rushes. You can see the shape of things.”
Fuller: “Life is in color, but black and white is more realistic.”

Organ doom music (by Wenders regular Jürgen Knieper – not Jim Jarmusch as IMDB states) sometimes overloads the scene. Nice use of X’s Los Angeles when they arrive in Los Angeles.

Fritz complete filmography:

Artur Semedo, the other man on the dam in The Territory, plays the production manager:

I read that Joaquim Pinto’s new movie What Now? Remind Me has behind-the-scenes footage of The Territory. I would’ve made this a triple-feature, but it’s not out yet.

Dance doc based on the choreography of Pina Bausch, who died unexpectedly a week before filming was to begin. It ends up feeling like a memorial instead, the dance scenes interspersed with non-synched voiceover/closeup segments with each major dancer saying something about Pina.

Katy wanted more narrative and background, but the movie is purely interested in the dances, which are outstanding and look awesome in 3D. Highlights: “Cafe Muller,” in which Pina runs across a room full of chairs while a guy quickly clears her path, a couple climbing through chairs while a third guy precariously stacks them (Pina was into chairs), a solo sadness ballet at an empty factory, a rainy moon-rock scene with gondola-like floor slides, and dances in active locations (by a busy street, on a monorail).

Where did this movie come from, and what happened to it? How come this and Chacun du cinema, anthology films with tons of super-famous directors, aren’t well known and out on video? Paris, Je T’aime did pretty well, right? Whatever… we’ve got two 90-minute anthologies here, “The Trumpet” (the first seven listed below) and “The Cello”. Each has short films with the theme of ten minutes, or else something to do with time and the number ten. Each begins with some light jazz, abstract images of water, then the signature of the director on a black background and the title of the short.


The Trumpet

Aki Kaurismäki – Dogs Have No Hell
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More dry wit from Aki. Guy spends the night in jail, gets out and has ten minutes until the train leaves for Siberia (via Moscow). In that ten minutes, he finds a girl he knows, proposes to her, buys a wedding ring and gets them both train tickets. Not much in itself, but a good start to the anthology, setting up the whole ten minutes thing.

Víctor Erice – Lifeline
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A sleeping baby starts bleeding while its twenty-or-more family members are each doing their own thing. Time passes, tension mounts. Someone finally notices the baby and fixes him up, no problem. Great camerawork here! The kid above is listening to a watch he drew on his wrist.

Werner Herzog – Ten Thousand Years Older
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A sad ten-minute documentary. Twenty years ago in Brazil, contact was made with the last tribe of people anywhere in the world who didn’t have watches and t-shirts and chicken pox. We gave them all three of those things, the chicken pox killed most of them, and now there aren’t many left. Werner, along with a member from the original team, checks up on them. The younger generation is embarrassed by their parents, want to move to the city. The older ones, represented by the war chief (above right, with his brother on left) ponder their fates and the passage of time.

Jim Jarmusch – Int. Trailer Night
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Chloe Sevigny tries to unwind in her trailer on a film shoot for ten minutes. There are interruptions. It’s pretty, but what else is it?

Wim Wenders – Twelve Miles to Trona
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Wenders manages to make a ten-minute desert road movie. This is kinda hilarious actually… straight guy accidentally overdoses on unknown hallucinogenic drug, has to drive himself to the hospital in another town ten minutes away. He doesn’t make it, but a passerby gets him there and he’s okay. Looked a bit like one of those Masters of Horror episodes where they mess with the camera to make things look trippy, but it pulled me in pretty well. They played two loud Eels songs from the Souljacker album.

Spike Lee – We Wuz Robbed
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A compressed mini-doc about Bush II stealing the 2000 presidential election from Gore (with help from the mass media and supreme court), snappy and nicely done, using all interviews and TV news graphics.

Chen Kaige – 100 Flowers Hidden Deep
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Crazy guy brings a moving company to a dirt lot to move his furniture. Finally they pretend like they’re moving furniture to appease the guy, until one mover “drops” a “vase” and breaks it. Not great, but cute. Wish it didn’t end with an awful, sub-2046 wireframe 3D animation though.


The Cello

Three of the seven Trumpet shorts made me tear up with emotion (hint: Spike Lee yes, Wim Wenders no), but most of the Cello disc left me sad, tired or bored. Huge difference there, but I’d rather have it that way than have the crap diluting the good stuff over both discs. If only the Michael Radford short had been on the Trumpet disc, I could’ve just sold Cello.

Bernardo Bertolucci – Histoire d’eaux
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I kinda liked this, but it still gave me a sort of “uh oh” feeling about The Cello when it started. Foreigner (Indian?) is in Italy with a pile of other foreigners, confused thinks he’s in Germany. Old guy wanders away from the group asks our man for a drink of water. Our man finds a girl, fixes her motorcycle, marries her, has kids, gets a nice job, buys a car, crashes the car, wanders off from the car crash site and sees the old man still waiting for his water.

Claire Denis – Vers Nancy
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A dry, academic conversation on a train about outsiders & foreigners, with the writer and one of the actors of Denis’ 2004 feature The Intruder. I haven’t seen Intruder, but this is obviously a companion piece, prequel or commentary on it. It almost put me to sleep, and I wasn’t even tired.

Mike Figgis – About Time 2
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Figgis was the oscar-nom director of Leaving Las Vegas, but I don’t think the producers of Ten Minutes Older realized that in 2002 his career was on the verge of death after Timecode and the critically bashed Hotel (it would die for real the following year with Cold Creek Manor). This is a nonsense short, shot Timecode-style. So far, it is the least-bearable ten minutes I have watched this year… I was itching to fast-forward.

Jean-Luc Godard – Dans le noir du temps
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In collaboration with Anne-Marie Miéville, I think this was actually a trailer for Histoire(s) du Cinema. They’re definitely related. The most unfortunate similarity to Histoire(s) is that this was only partially translated – none of the onscreen French text has subtitles.

Jirí Menzel – One Moment
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A very nice tribute (using archive footage) to Czech actor Rudolf Hrusínský who acted in more than ten of Menzel’s movies and died in 1994.

Michael Radford – Addicted to the Stars
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Guy travels 80 light years in suspended animation in a space capsule, gets back to earth and doctors say he has only aged ten minutes. Goes to visit his son, who was a young boy when he went away, now a very old man. Movie has an awesome sci-fi look to it, and I liked the story and atmosphere – a very nice short, my favorite of the Cello bunch. Fresh off Lara Croft Tomb Raider, Daniel Craig starred as the astronaut.

Volker Schlöndorff – The Enlightenment
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Camera zooms around an outdoor party while unseen narrator ponders the nature of time. At end camera flies into a bug light and dies. It turns out we have been a mosquito. Har!

István Szabó – Ten Minutes After
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Szabó is the Hungarian director of Lovefilm and Sunshine – I haven’t seen anything else of his. A husband comes home extremely drunk and angry, starts storming around the house while his wife watches upset, “what’s wrong? you never drink!”, finally he tries to strangle her, she stabs him, emergency crew arrives in like fifteen seconds, cops question her, the end. Why? I thought it was gonna be all one long shot, but then I saw a cut towards the end, so there were probably a couple others.

Second half of shorts listing from Cannes 60th anniv. celebration (first half is here):

It’s A Dream by Tsai Ming-liang
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Occupations by a hatchet-wielding Lars Von Trier
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The Gift, more weirdness by Raoul Ruiz
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The Cinema Around The Corner, happy reminiscing by Claude Lelouch
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First Kiss, pretty but obvious, by Gus Van Sant.
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Cinema Erotique, a funny gag by Roman Polanksi with one of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s large-faced actors.
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No Translation Needed, almost too bizarre to be considered self-indulgent, first Michael Cimino movie since 1996.
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At the Suicide of the Last Jew in the World in the Last Cinema in the World by and starring David Cronenberg, one of his funniest and most disturbing movies.
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I Travelled 9,000 km To Give It To You by Wong Kar-Wai.
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Where Is My Romeo? – Abbas Kiarostami films women crying at a movie.
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The Last Dating Show, funny joke on dating and racial tension by Bille August.
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Awkward featuring Elia Suleiman as himself.
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Sole Meeting, another gag, by Manoel de Oliveira and starring Michel Piccoli (left) and MdO fave Duarte de Almeida (right).
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8,944 km From Cannes, a very pleasurable musical gag by Walter Salles.
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War In Peace, either perverse or tragic, I don’t know which, by Wim Wenders.
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Zhanxiou Village, supreme childhood pleasure by Chen Kaige.
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Happy Ending, ironically funny ending by Ken Loach.
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Epilogue is an excerpt from a Rene Clair film.
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Not included in the DVD version was World Cinema by Joel & Ethan Coen and reportedly a second Walter Salles segment.

Not included in the program at all was Absurda by David Lynch (reportedly he submitted too late, so his short was shown separately). I saw a download copy… some digital business with crazed sound effects and giant scissors.