RARA-AVIS: Wenders: The American Friend (1976)

From: Karin Montin ( kmontin@sympatico.ca)
Date: 20 Aug 2006

I saw The American Friend again for the first time in about fifteen years. Before that I'd seen it five or six times. It was my favourite movie for a while. I must say that this time round I found it overlong and slow. My attention span has shortened over the years, I think.

It's the story of an ordinary man who becomes a contract killer. Picture framer Jonathan Zimmerman doesn't shake hands when introduced to Tom Ripley, saying only, "I've heard of you." Ripley takes it badly and gives Zimmerman's name to a guy who wants someone killed by a killer unknown to anyone. Zimmerman is persuaded to take on the job to provide for his wife and child when he dies (perhaps very soon) of a blood disease.

Some say it's unfaithful to the Highsmith novel (Ripley's Game); some say Dennis Hopper is bizarrely miscast as Ripley. Some say that it's a metaphor for (and I suppose criticism of) the relationship between the U.S. and Germany. I tend to think that the film is testimony to Wenders' love of American movies. Hey, one critic even said "Wenders' discourse on Hollywood is at once damning and reverential" < http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/directors/03/wenders.html>.

The NYT called it "baroque"; Rene Ribic called it great post-noir; someone else called it noir. I would say it is noir. An innocent man is corrupted; his life is ruined and so is that of his family.

The film is beautifully shot and visually very interesting with its early Wenders postmodern references to film and other means of communication, mainly the visual arts (but also means of transportation), starting with the painter (taken from another Highsmith novel) and the framer and going on to the many moving picture gadgets: backlit train lamp, vintage face-changing device and flick picture device, etc. Many shots are actually framed by a window frame. (The film's working title was The Frame.)

I read the book a while ago so I can't comment on departures or even Ripley's character. I must say I prefer the kind of strange Hopper to the really weird John Malkovitch who played Ripley in Ripley's Game.

For a bunch of critics' remarks:
< http://www.webyourphotos.info/books_and_more/book.php?info=B00006LPC6>


RARA-AVIS home page: http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/
  Yahoo! Groups Links

<*> To visit your group on the web, go to:

<*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

<*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 20 Aug 2006 EDT