Wim Wenders: Portraits Along the Road

12/4-12/13 @Brattle


Each of the major figures in the so-called New German Cinema of the 1970s was, right out of the gate, a highly singular, idiosyncratic artist. You’ll find less stylistic overlap in even the earliest works produced by Herzog, Fassbinder, and Wenders, for example, than you will when comparing, say, Godard and Truffaut’s first features.

Wim Wenders — a partial retrospective of whose works arrives at the Brattle this month as part of a cross-country tour (a road retro, if you will) — distinguished himself early on as the most inward and least flamboyant of the big three, his considerable intensities generally quieter and less grandiose than Herzog’s quasi-mystical grandeur or Fassbinder’s ultra-vivid spleen.

From its late-Sixties beginnings (an early shorts program screens on 12/4 alongside 1969’s The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick), the series moves through Wenders’ triumphant Seventies (the whole road trilogy is unmissably fine) and anointed Eighties (culminating in the sublime Wings of Desire), finally finishing up with the director’s successful pivot from fiction to documentary in 1999’s Buena Vista Social Club.

In between Wings of Desire and Buena Vista there was a difficult period, represented here by the director’s cut of 1991’s Until the End of the World, a dizzyingly ambitious science-fictional extension of Wenders’ road movie template which, in its original, severely truncated theatrical version served primarily to baffle critics and moviegoers alike. On 12/12, the Brattle will screen the allegedly final, definitive version of the film, clocking in at nearly five hours in length. Touring the country with this portable retro, the movie has been much more enthusiastically received in its current iteration. By some, rapturously. That’s how I’m planning to receive it, at least.

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