Saturday, July 03, 2010

Wim Wenders: Der Amerikanische Freund

Dennis Hopper, RIP. On a related note, another favorite from the 1970s: Wim Wenders' Der Amerikanische Freund / The American Friend / L'ami américain / El amigo americano (1977).

The "American friend" of the title is a character derived from Fort Worth-born writer Patricia Highsmith's Ripliad novels. In Wenders' version, we're not quite sure what motivates the "talented" Mr. Ripley or his German anti-buddy, Jonathan Zimmermann (Bruno Ganz): money, mortality, kinship? Or is it chance and opportunity? Is Zimmermann dying fast, or is he being hoodwinked into becoming a de facto hitman? What is self-reflection, projection on others, what is real and what is forgery? As art forger Derwatt (Nicholas Ray, director of Rebel Without a Cause) quips, "A little older, a little more confused. . ." At one point, Tom Ripley admits to a tape player: "I know less and less about who I am, or who anybody else is."

What makes the plot work is the added tension created by Jonathan's wife Marianne Zimmermann (Lisa Kreuzer), their son Daniel (Andreas Dedecke), and mystery man Raoul Minot (Gérard Blain). Sam Fuller (the director) adds more as Der Amerikaner, a gangster -- Fuller who said, "Van Gogh was a great inspiration for me, a guy for whom life was work and work was life. I wanted to be like him, except I didn't want to go nuts and cut off my ear."

A beautifully crafted film.  Like Sorcerer alluded to in the past two posts (also from 1977), not for the Disney and Hallmark crowd nor the easily distracted, my friends . . . but oh, what a movie! 

The Kinks play a subtle reinforcing role for the pensive Mr. Zimmerman: He mumble-hums and listens to The Kinks' Face to Face, specifically "Too Much on My Mind;" when Marianne suspects he's involved in shady business, another Kinks song -- "Nothin' in the World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl" from Kinda Kinks -- plays in the background.

Mr. Ripley has appeared in more recent movies, as well, but this one's his best showing.

Today's Rune: The Self.

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