The American Friend

The American Friend ★★★★★

A weird, tense, and wistful quadruple threat from Wim Wenders, Bruno Ganz, Dennis Hopper, and maybe most of all, Robby Müller. The man knows how to shoot cities—we visit three, and each is suffused with a sense of grit and vitality that I’m not sure I’ve seen anywhere else. I suspect the cinematography, and especially some of the incredible early-morning shots we get of Hamburg, Paris, and New York, will be what sticks with me most. That and the stuff on the beach at the end. And maybe Hopper walking on the ledge. And maybe the bird’s-eye view of Ganz exiting the train station after a very tense encounter. And maybe...

Should almost go without saying that Ganz and Hopper are both fantastic. The former for the way he subtly suggests the emotional journey of a man who brushes up against death (in more than one way) and is irrevocably changed, and the latter for making me care about an amoral sociopath. Their connection develops rather slowly, but it’s all in service to a greater purpose. I love how things just start growing exponentially more chaotic the closer Ganz’s character gets to Hopper’s. Wenders escalates things so effectively that you only notice once you’ve already embraced the madness. 

Some films deserve five stars because they’re near-perfect implementations of stuff I’ve basically seen before. This earns five stars for showing me something completely new.

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