Sorry I’ve been slow to update lately! It’s mostly because I’ve been working on my other never-ending side project. Take a look at QueerPortraits.com if you’re interested.
The American West has rarely been as beautifully captured as it is in Wim Wenders’ PARIS, TEXAS. The German director somehow knows exactly how to use the vast, empty landscape of an American desert, along with the vast, empty landscape of an American city, to tell the story of crossing those expanses and filling in that emptiness. The film opens on Harry Dean Stanton wandering the desert, sunburnt, dehydrated, and mute. Slowly it’s revealed that he has a brother, and a son, and somewhere, a wife, and slowly he begins to put those pieces of his life back together. Everything about the film’s pacing is gradual, without feeling stagnant. If there are long silent stretches, they’re generally filled in with excellent acting (no surprise, because Harry Dean Stanton is wonderful always) and striking cinematography. And the themes of family and human connection at the heart of the film are carefully explored. I really enjoyed that the entire thing is pure eye candy to look at, but I think my favorite aspect is the humanity and respect given to each character by Wenders and screenwriter Sam Shepard. I’m a sucker for any story that has a conflict without villains.
By sheer coincidence, this film was recommended to me right around the same time that Silver Screen Society chose it for their own month long tribute. So if you want to see more WINGS OF DESIRE inspired art, might I recommend heading over here.
Wim Wenders’ poetic WINGS OF DESIRE is a sweepingly romantic film. In a world where angels walk silently among us, bearing witness to our lives, one angel falls in love with a trapeze artist and decides he wants to be a part of the physical world. Yet this central relationship, which constitutes the only real storyline, is just a single thread in the film’s fabric. The rest comprises beautiful black and white aerial shots of Berlin and intimate fragments of people’s thoughts. It’s about the city as a whole, or maybe life as a whole, so much more than any individual characters. And although angels usually aren’t my thing, here they seem to be more of a symbolic device than a spiritual one, which I enjoyed. Peter Falk playing himself along with a performance from Nick Cave were both delightful bonuses.
Lulu, the lead character in the masterful silent film PANDORA’S BOX, is the epitome of the femme fatale. With her charisma and unapologetic sexuality she easily seduces – and ultimately dooms – those around her. But this film isn’t a morality play, and Lulu is not a villain. She’s actually an innocent if spoiled girl, used to getting her way while oblivious to the destruction around her. This is a role that takes an actress as gifted and stunningly beautiful as Louise Brooks to give it the allure and complexity it requires. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention cinema’s first lesbian portrayal. Even though that character meets the same unfortunate fate as Lulu’s other admirers, I can’t tell you how glad I was that she didn’t end up either evil or dead, the clichés that would plague lesbian characters for the next several decades.
As engaging as any psychological thriller today and perhaps better crafted, M tells the story of a serial killer (and implied pedophile) stalking the city of Berlin. The film is about more than the horror of his crimes and the thrill of the chase, however. It focuses, instead, on the impact these have on a fearful, paranoid city. The police and a band of professional criminals work against each other to capture the murderer first, while citizens turn on each other with false accusations and mob mentality. Most surprising is the ending, when Peter Lorre, as the killer, gives a remarkable performance that actually lends sympathy to his character and raises currently relevant questions about the nature of the justice system. Actually, most everything about this film feels current. Each shot and transition is expertly orchestrated, and the use of sound is so skilled that it’s difficult to believe this was Fritz Lang’s first “talkie.”