Khoi_Phan’s review published on Letterboxd:
There’s something about this movie that I can’t put into words, like the way it used to be with Kore-eda’s After Life. There’s something there so deep inside those souls, something hid behind the richness in colors and the ambiguous mise-en-scene.
The American Friend has a very subtle plot, built upon small details. However, each has a huge impact in the end like butterfly effect. The bond between Tom and Jonathan was odd, yet to some extent, they were vaguely but deeply connected, like two souls in one, resembling and complementing each other. I can’t help but think about them as the same person in two parallel, but contradictory, worlds, that suddenly crossed each other’s path. Everything they did, no matter if it was helping or damaging the other, still showed their unexplainably personal connection, as when one suffered, the other also suffered. They ended up physically leaving each other, but emotionally, hmm I doubt.
Questions regarding morality were also raised about the origin of all the crimes executed: Did it come from others’ influences (e.g: Tom’s decision to take revenge on Jonathan from the beginning), or was it Jonathan’s true identity? Was it for good purposes (saving friend, financially helping family), and should these purpose be denied, as in most of the encounters, the victims didn’t seem to be bad people? Outsiders’ influence played an important part in developing situations for the story, but one’s free will was never neglected. There’re also thoughts on American’s influence on others, as reflected on the bond between Tom and Jonathan, but I’d rather keep this story personal.
Wim Wenders was at the top of his game: soundtrack. It perfectly creates a neo-noir atmosphere for the film, adding on it a vague color as the story progressed. His cinematography is also very photographic, balanced, rich in colors, bright and dark at the same time. Mostly his use of colors and shot selection are very remarkable, especially his elegant green and blue.
Bruno Ganz never fails to amaze me with his superb performance, portraying a profound character, the main moral character of the movie, with such smooth and calm acting. Dennis Hopper was more outwardly emotional, adding depth onto their odd friendship, and more importantly, played a vital role in the development of the whole story, not only as someone who wanted to get closer to a role model like Ganz’s character, but also as the mirror reflecting Jonathan’s true inner soul.