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Award-winning German auteur Wim Wenders has an incredible filmography. His first feature film, Summer In The City, was released in 1970, while his most recent work, a documentary about Pope Francis, was released in 2018, and between the two there are dozens more. Purely in terms of quantity, it’s impressive.
But it’s the quality of Wenders’ films that keeps us watching. Wenders is a photographer and painter as well as a filmmaker, and that eye for beauty is startlingly evident in his films. He seems to be fascinated by landscapes, and people, and what it means to be human.
If you’re new to Wenders, this is the perfect time to discover him. And if you’re already a fan, then you’ll be pleased to hear that we’ll be screening some of his most iconic works – we’d like to think Regent Street Cinema is the perfect venue to appreciate these cinematic masterpieces. Either way, here are our picks for discovering or rediscovering Wim Wenders.
An angel watching over a divided Berlin decides to give up his wings when he falls in love with a lonely trapeze artist in this stunningly beautiful romantic fantasy. West Berlin in the 1980s is achingly cool, full of artists and musicians (including Nick Cave) but also scarred by war, bounded by the Berlin Wall. Wenders juxtaposes the angels’ black and white world with the colour-filled world humanity inhabits in this ode to life and love – and Bruno Ganz gives a fantastic performance as the yearning angel who finally gets to experience the world.
The wide-open vistas and bleak, decaying old towns of the United States – from Texas to California – provide the perfect backdrop for this road movie that becomes a voyage of discovery. Slow and quiet, Paris, Texas is driven by an evident love for the land and a perfectly pitched performance by Harry Dean Stanton, and it richly rewards viewers’ patience. A revelatory kind of film, Paris, Texas will touch your heart.
This documentary tells the story of Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado, an artist who might have seemed like a kindred spirit to Wenders. Salgado’s work is famous for capturing tragedies: his images of famine victims and refugee camps in Ethiopia served to draw the world’s attention to what was happening there, while his photography of the war in then-Yugoslavia was (and is, still) heartrendingly powerful. Wenders’ documentary, co-directed with Salgado’s son Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, serves as a tribute to the photographer; there’s an evident sympathy between the two artists that makes this film unforgettable.
Based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel Ripley’s Game, The American Friend is a stylish neo-noir set in Hamberg. The villainous Tom Ripley has infiltrated the art world, scamming dealers into buying forgeries, but things take a darker turn when an awkward encounter with a terminally ill dealer leads Ripley to strong-arm the man into carrying out an assassination. Dennis Hopper and Bruno Ganz are as brilliant as you’d expect, while Wenders’ choice to prioritise atmosphere over easy answers definitely pays off.
Another documentary, Buena Vista Social Club follows Wenders’ friend Ry Cooder on his quest to record an album with a group of legendary Cuban musicians. Though the film celebrates Cuban music and culture, it’s all inevitably tinged with sadness; Cooder has the band travel to America to perform two sell-out shows, which sees many of these musicians entering the United States for the first time, and the film documents their reaction to the rapturous reception they receive. A must-see for music lovers.
Kino Dreams is the first UK Wim Wenders retrospective, and is supported by BFI funding.