While I am not a huge Wim Wenders fan, there are a number of scenes I could pick from Paris, Texas (1984), which I believe to be his one and only masterpiece. I could listen to Harry Dean Stanton tell just about any story, but hearing him tell this story about a jealous love gone mad was is a bit of film magic for me, and also hit very close to home back in the 80s and 90s. From his well-groomed hair to turning the chair around to the pure voyeurism of watching Nastassja Kinski slowly come to the realization of who is telling his this tale. Watching people struggling through the emotional minefield that is love and loss is maybe one of the hardest things to capture honestly on film—perhaps the only thing harder is good comedy—and this scene nails it like few others have. If you have any heart at all, it’s likely to be etched in you mind for a long time to come. And, for the record, if I didn’t choose this scene I would have chose the one where Harry Dean is washing the dishes and crooning in Spanish—that’s something special in its own right.
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I used to be a bigger Wenders fan than I am now. Despite not seeing any of his films for years, their memory has lessened. I do still remember loving The American Friend, and of course Wings of Desire, which I would argue is as good as Paris–if you can disassociate it from the lousy sequel.
Wings of Desire is often discussed as his best film, and I can;t say Far Away, So Close hasn’t spoiled it for me to some degree, but I also have to say that the original film was a bit boring for me. I didn’t feel it. Now, let me frame the context a bit to be fair. I was crashing a contemporary German fil course taught by Peter swollen at UCLA, and the three major filmmakers were Herzog, Wenders, and Fassbinder. I immediately fell in love with Fassbinder’s biography and inane films, which in some ways spoiled Herzog and Wenders for me. I felt Fassbinder dealt with the post-war German malaise and horror far more honestly and brutally than either of the other two, and his insistence on prostitutes, drugs, and DIY improve just seemed so amazing. This was all brought home when I finally saw his masterpiece The Marriage of Maria Braun. Which I think is the most powerful commentary on post-war Germany in film, especially when coupled with Lola and Veronika Voss. And in my opinion, taken all together this trilogy may very well be the best fictional social/political commentary on Post-WWII Germany to date.
So, in this light, I often feel Wings of Desire to be a whole lot of fluff, given how others German filmmakers have literally attacked the subject relentlessly and far more honestly at the same moment. But comparing Wenders to Fassbinder is pretty unfair, but that’s why I love to do it—the truth becomes quickly apparent in the process 🙂
Whereas Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, Wrath of the Gods brings up a whole different frame for ideas of the monomaniac and the German character that I always felt were far too removed from a politic and based in some deep, dark nature, but that’s another post—for Fitzcarraldo is a film I have been waiting to re-watch and write about because I think about it all the time.
Hope that provides more context for me saying Wings of Desire sucks, which is what I want to say 🙂
Had to stop reading this after the that started “While I am not a huge Wim Wenders fan”….
Well, I considered stopping reading the bava altogether at that point, but your Breakfast Club post saved you.
Incidentally my two favorite Wenders films are The American Friend, and the much much underrated “The End of Violence”. I love the slow motion of TEOV, and how it’s dual theme (the “end of violence” as in can there be an end to it or does one violent act just continue to ricochet, and “the end of violence” as in what is the ultimate aim of violence) converge and split throughout the film.
But it’s been a decade since I watched it, probably need to watch it again.
You know I still love you, and I have to say the other Wenders film i would promote is The Goalies Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, I think the best of his early existential angst. But still no match for Paris, Texas. And now to yours and Peter’s reading of TBC, which I love. I guess we’ll always have Hughes 🙂 And you know the bava needs you, right?