The American Friend

The American Friend ★★★★

DIRECTOR WEEK #7: Wim Wenders

My first Wim Wenders film is also my introduction to the character of Tom Ripley. This adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel Ripley's Game, is one of those 70's neo-noir thrillers that I just can't get enough of. What I like most about these kinds of films is that they're all about the atmosphere. A complex plot with many twists and turns is often pushed to the background and instead we get to enjoy a grim window into the wonderfully cynical zeitgeist of that turbulent time.
The American Friend is no different, Wenders even seems to take it a step further and cuts out major parts of the plot, as if you're watching a heavily trimmed version of a much longer film. The plot is clearly not important here; it's all about atmosphere.

The story about Tom Ripley (Dennis Hopper) who becomes the middle man for a German picture framer turned hitman (Bruno Ganz) and a French mobster (Gérard Blain) is told in such an elleptical way that you have to fill in the blanks to understand what's going on. While this may sound detrimental to the entire experience, Wenders handles it in such a way that it makes the characters very intriguing.

They are well-written and you really want to get to know what is going on in their mind. However, by the way the film is structured, your perception of them often changes. This gave the film a mysterious and unpredictable quality, which was very engaging.
I liked how the story always seemed to move forward, except for certain sequences that were drawn out to get the most suspense out of it; like during the pivotal train thrill-ride.

The acting was overall really good, but Dennis Hopper was simply outstanding. He brought a so much personality to the Ripley character and his relation with Bruno Ganz's character, Jonathan Zimmeran was the driving force of the film. It was probably Hopper at his best.

A couple of directors made an appearance in the film, which was a nice surprise. I recognized Nicholas Ray and Samuel Fuller, and apparently there are some others that I don't know.

I must say that the characters would have been more relatable and clear if the story was told in a more traditional way. But I primarily enjoyed the vibes that I was getting from each individual scene, and I think that was the major intend. Sometimes I was too busy trying to figure out what was happening, which was distracting, but the character development was always there.

There were a hanfdful of memorable moments and the entire film looked gorgeous. I loved the harsh colors and the use of artificial lights. There were some editing choices that really surprised me in a good way.
The cathartic ending was beautiful and deeply emotional. It's an enjoyable watch.

If you're all about those neo-noir feels, than this film is for you.

Every day of the week, I will watch a film by a certain critically acclaimed director that I haven't seen before.
You can follow my progress here.

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