Wim Wenders

By: Tim Carmody
August 14, 2010

WIM WENDERS (born 1945) was only 16 when Oberhausen, his [and Paul the Octopus’] hometown, hosted its 9th annual festival for short art films, producing what became known as the Oberhausen Manifesto of the Junger Deutscher Film movement. Five years later, Wenders was part of the inaugural class at HFF, the West German Republic’s University for Film and Television in Munich. Three years after that, his Summer in the City was one of the first films made by a director born after the end of World War II. From the beginning, Wenders’s films have been marked by many talented collaborators with distinctive backgrounds and styles, including cinematographers Robbie Muller and Henri Alekan, co-writers Sam Shepard and Peter Handke, musician Ry Cooder, and fellow filmmakers Nicholas Ray, Francis Ford Coppola, Jim Jarmusch, Michaelangelo Antonioni, nearly always as part of an international co-production. Is it any wonder that his output has been uneven? Every cinephile I know is either obsessed with a single Wenders film, or has no use for him. For me, it’s Paris, Texas (1984). Movies like Rain Man and Forrest Gump cribbed whole scenes, nearly turning Harry Dean Stanton’s mute, amnesiac desert wanderer into a cliché, but they’ve never subtracted a fraction of the film’s power. Paris, Texas is the town where Travis was conceived, where he bought a parcel of useless land, and punchline to a cruel joke told by Travis’s father at the expense of his mother. The film conjures one spirit after another, only seen in photographs, film reels, and finally a telephone conversation through a glass wall. Every memory and event re-proves the simultaneous impossibility and inevitability of love, loss, and paternity.



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What do you think?

  1. I have an ongoing fascination with Until the End of the World, even though I don’t think it’s that great of a film. But the ideas, and the soundtrack…! But in the end I’ll have to cast my lot with Wings of Desire. (With the small and somewhat ridiculous caveat that it is very difficult these days to see Bruno Ganz and not think Hitler meme — I keep expecting ranting subtitles about being banned from XBox live.)

  2. Originally, I had a line in here, “For most people, it’s Wings of Desire,” along with a story about two of my friends from graduate school who were obsessed with that movie. Until the End of the World seems to be number three.

    Tim Corrigan has a great essay about hidden resonances between Paris, Texas and Star Wars: alien landscapes (and barscapes), father/son issues, being raised by an aunt and uncle, a quest to save a princess who’s only been seen on a recording. If you remember, in the movie Hunter (the little boy) is obsessed with Star Wars.

  3. Kings of the Road for me, or maybe Alice in the Cities, or The State of Things. There’s one long shot in The State of Things, of waves leaving a contour of wet sand onto a beach, erasing and rewriting again and again, that haunts me. I think Wenders is the last great black and white filmmaker.

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