The American Friend ★★★½

"What's wrong with a cowboy in Hamburg?"

This isn't a road movie. Not quite. For all the trams and convertibles, footsteps, stalkings--and journeys between neighbouring countries--tAF feels remarkably still. Maybe this is merely a result of how Wenders lingers over Jonathan's domestic/work duties, often isolating the frame-maker himself to little offices, bedrooms and other confinements. Maybe it's the casual pace of the film as a whole, loafing as it does between Hopper and Ganz's (increasingly horrific) activities without any great pomp nor need for exposition. Whatever the reason, there's still a palpable sense of a kind of static that permeates The American Friend, contradictory to each, more violent, event as they unfold. Assassinations, art-fraud, broken marriages, blood disease...we get the sense that Wenders is documenting here not just a noir-of-circumstance (ie, the tragedy of an innocent man falling further and further into a criminal underworld he hardly understands) but a tale of the erosion of reconstruction-era Europe altogether.

Who is Tom Ripley? Just another gangster? No. I can't help but see Tom [obvious hyperbole of Yankee nihilism, greed, masculinity] as nothing less than a harbinger for International Capital/Cowboy Economics in sum, invading the psyche of Europe as it attempts to rebuild itself from the rubble of WWII. The more outlandish Hopper behaves, the more he draws Jonathan and Marianne towards their doom, the more the movie breaks and falters into seemingly unimportant scenes of its cast staring off into the abyss, humming to themselves, playing with a gadget or staying perfectly still with a cigarette still burning in their mouth. It's like...the world is stopping. Like it's running out of steam. It is as if the spirit of The Old Way is puttering, shivering, giving rise to something all the more menacing--and meaningless. Sure, there's a bunch of 'action' in this film, and movement too; chase-scenes, assaults, walking, pacing, laughing, drinking. But there's an inertia here that needs mentioning. Old coka-cola dispensers filling up our frame. Canada Dry neon-lights hovering over a rickety billiards table. Abandoned Victorian mansions. Dingy apartment buildings almost sinking into the sea. Unfinished picture-frames gathering dust. This is the imagery of freeze; the endless present.

Thanks Wim. I watched this movie over the course of, like, four days (a disgusting way to witness film, I know) so my reading here is rather muddled. Suffice it to say, there's MUCH I am missing out. Requires a rewatch, no doubt. But! Ganz and Hopper and Kreuzer are fantastic performers regardless of my shitty inattention. Jürgen Knieper's OST is banging, strings and brass and proto-synth. Jaws-like. Robby Müller knows how to wield pans and close-ups better than the best too. That scene where Jonathan holds the gold leaf before calling Raoul Minot is, well, extraordinary. Top 10 kinda scene in my book.

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