Wim Wenders at the NYFF 2011

Last month at the 49th New York Film Festival director Wim Wenders sat down for an extended talk about his career.

He was their to screen his new film Pina, a 3D documentary about Pina Bausch, and sat down for a lengthy chat with Scott Foundas as part of their HBO Films Directors Dialogue series.

They discuss a wide variety of topics, including:

> Wim Wenders’ official site
> More on Wenders at Wikipedia, MUBi and Senses of Cinema
> Film Society of Lincoln Center

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

Blu-ray: Wings of Desire


After a spell making films in the U.S., director Wim Wenders returned to his native Germany for Wings of Desire (1987), a beautiful meditation on existence in a Berlin that was heading towards the end of the Cold War.

The story follows two angels, Damiel (Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (Otto Sander) as they observe and listen in on the lives of Berlin’s citizens, most notably a trapeze artist, Marion (Solveig Dommartin) and Peter Falk (playing himself) who is in the city making a film.

Co-written with frequent collaborator Peter Handke, Wenders manages to contrast the poetic ruminations of the angels with the doubts and anxieties of the humans to stunning effect: monochrome is contrasted with colour, the camera goes from the skies above to the streets below and the journey of one of the angels is a touching reversal of what usually happens in these kinds of stories.

Wenders the Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival and the film spawned a decent – though inferior – sequel in 1993 with Faraway, So Close! and a Hollywood remake (City of Angels) which is best left forgotten.

An instant art house hit when it was originally released, the film has gained an extra layer of poignancy given the seismic changes the Berlin it so lovingly documents was about to undergo when the Wall fell in 1989.

This Blu-ray release is a massive improvement on existing DVDs and is a restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by Wenders and the 1080p rendering looks fantastic, with the details and black and white being rendered more faithfully than ever before.

Extra features include:

  • 1080/23.98p 1.66:1 Widescreen (extras in SD PAL format)
  • German 5.1 DTS-HD MA with optional English subtitles
  • Feature-length commentary with Wim Wenders and Peter Falk
  • Deleted scenes with optional commentary
  • ‘Conversations on Wings of Desire’ featurette
  • Trailer
  • Exclusive limited edition 24 page collector’s booklet

Wings of Desire is out on on Blu-ray from Axiom Films

> Buy Wings of Desire on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> IMDb entry
> Find out more about Wim Wenders at Wikipedia
> Check out screen grabs of the Blu-ray at DVD Beaver

DVD & Blu-ray

DVD Pick: Alice in the Cities

German director Wim Wenders is perhaps best known for his acclaimed films in the 1980s such as Paris, Texas, and Wings of Desire.

Back in the early 1970s he was part of a group of directors such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog and Volker Schlöndorff, who were bracketed under the banner of the ‘New German Cinema‘.

One of his most notable earlier films is Alice in the Cities (1974), a thoughtful and poignant road movie about a journalist named Philip Winter (Rüdiger Vogler) who ends up trying to help a little girl (Yella Rottländer) find her grandmother.

The film starts with Winter on an assignment in the US but he finds the experience dispiriting and ends up with a bout of writer’s block, only finding solace in taking polaroid photos.

When he decides to go home to Germany, a plane strike delays his flight and he meets up with a German woman and her daughter Alice (Rottlander), who are also stuck until normal service is resumed.

When Alice’s mother misses the flight and fails to appear in Amsterdam as planned, Winter finds himself responsible for the young girl and they both travel across Europe, trying to find Alice’s grandmother.

Driven by the charming chemistry between Vogler and Rottlander, it has a pleasingly meandering narrative and is free of the twee life lessons and sentimentality that could have crept in.

Shot in grainy black and white on 16mm by Wenders’s regular cinematographer Robby Muller, it is a captivating work that establishes themes which would surface in Wenders’ later films: alienation, lonlieness and a fascination with America.

The DVD has some solid extras which include:

  • An exclusive interview with Wim Wenders by Mark Cousins
  • Rare interviews with stars Rüdiger Vogler and Yella Rottländer
  • A collectors booklet and photo galleries.

Alice and the Cities is out now on DVD from Axiom Films

> Buy the DVD from Amazon UK
> IMDb entry
> Find out more about Alice and the Cities at Wim Wenders official site
> An essay on Wim Wenders at Senses of Cinema

Cannes Festivals Interesting

Steven Spielberg at Cannes in 1982

This Sunday Steven Spielberg will be at the Cannes Film Festival to unveil Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Back in 1982 he was there to unveil E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and during his stay German director Wim Wenders persuaded him to sit down for a short film called Room 666.

The premise was simple – Wenders asked a group of film directors from around the world to sit in Room 666 of the Hotel Martinez in Cannes.

Using a static camera he then asked the directors about the future of cinema, the principle question being:

Is cinema a language about to get lost, an art about to die?

Here is what Spielberg said (wait 23 seconds for him to appear):

> Room 666 at the IMDb
> More about the film at Wim Wenders official site