The American Friend

The American Friend ★★★★½

Tom Ripley, as done by Wim Wenders. Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley’s Game (25 years later adapted straight, starring John Malcovich, and Dougray Scott) here gets the New German Cinema treatment, and for my money it stands as one of the very finest movies of that mightily mighty cinematic era.

Dennis Hopper is suitably, wonderfully, kind of uncharacteristically enigmatic as Ripley, adding a more overt sense of danger to him, while maintaining the caring qualities at the heart of the story better than Hopper often got the chance to express elsewhere. That said, this is first and foremost Bruno Ganz’s movie, and he is so damn good in it. He doesn’t say very much, but he expresses a whole lot, he radiates desperation, sadness, pain, both physical, and emotional, and he plays the duped so wonderfully well. It’s a magnificently subtle, understated piece of work, and carries, and elevates the movie. In a small but vital supporting role, the great Nicholas Ray also got a chance to shine, and it’s wonderful seeing him on screen.

Wenders screenplay is one of the best, transforming a story of Anglo-American class relations to a very Fassbinder-esque tale of American occupied West Germany. Beyond note perfect allegorical interpretation the film just works so damn well as a kind of Hitchcockian psychological thriller, calling to mind Roman Polanski’s Frantic as well. I think it’s quite possibly the best all round work of Wenders entire life, and that’s sort of saying something.