Thursday, February 5, 2015

Notes on Alice in den Städten (Alice In The Cities) by Wim Wenders, Germany: 1973, Berlinale 2015 -I.- Homage Wim Wenders




for T and M

Alice In The Cities is still my favorite film by Wim Wenders. I remember having seen this film on a Sunday afternoon on Television, I think it was 1974. The film was quite young and the things revealed in it were at that time contemporary. As the film takes place most of its length in the region where I was born and grew up, it offered me both. First of all it was probably one if not the first film I saw which I identified as a film on my time, not to mention the locations in the second half. The fictive part of the film, its Road Movie aspect made me dream when I was a teen at that time.
It is a film where the real world and Cinema came together and with reality I mean the real places and things I was familiar with. At this time I did n´t know Ozu yet. Many years later I discovered Wenders films for myself via the detour Ozu.
When I think about Alice In The Cities more than 40 years later, I try to imagine how a Japanese who was a contemporary of Ozu has looked at the things and the places in the films of the great Japanese film director.
A lot of buildings you see in this film do not exist anymore. A coal miner settlement we see in one scene was close after this scene was filmed demolished.
I remember a scene in one of these ice-cafés which you could find in the region “Ruhrgebiet” in the 1960s and 1970s (Eisdielen) which were installed mostly by Italian immigrants.
When I saw this film on this boring Sunday afternoon, the reality the film evoked began just in front of my door. Today the film is like a history book which supports my personal memories in that time.
The film is like a monument which has to replace the buildings and all the things which were specific for the Western Germany of the 1970s and which are gone forever. I remember a very short excerpt from the Rolling Stones-song Angie which was exactly my favorite song in this very year. In these 40 years something happened with this film which could not have been the intention of a very young Wim Wenders in the year 1973. The amber which captured the things we see in the film was probably almost fluid and transparent in 1974 and this feeling I had for this “Now and Here” became a memory.
Nearly the first half of the film takes place in America which was for me in 1974 quite an abstract dream but for me hard to reach at this time. America was a landscape which existed at this time for me almost entirely through cinema.
One of the movements of this film is the failed journey of a German writer. When his America excursion fails he has to return to Germany. Before he can return to his sad every day life he will be involved with a young mother and her daughter. Back in Germany he has to care for a while for the girl, because the mother´s return from America is delayed. Bugged at the beginning by his father like duty for this child forced on him, his actually journey just begins.
I am not sure but I can´t imagine to have seen in 1974 this odyssey through a region very familiar to me as engrossed as I see it now. I am only sure about one thing the whole film as a resolution of Cinema and reality must have impressed me a lot – or at least I felt comfortable with it.

Like we know today the two homages to John Ford in this film were pure accidental: The excerpt of Young Mr. Lincoln in Rüdiger Vogler´s hotel television set and the big article in the newspaper on the death of John Ford “Versunkene Welt” (Sunken World).
Wenders once said that the death of John Ford just happened when he shot this scene. This shot became over the years much more weight for me, because in these 40 years John Ford became one of my favorite directors.

Together with Mr. And Mrs. Iyer by Aparna Sen and Arigato-San by Hiroshi Shimizu, Alice In The Cities is not just one of my most beloved Road Movie but a journey itself.
As I wrote once on Cambodian Cinema before the genocide or on a Korean Silent film screened two years ago in the Forum, sometimes one can sense the ghosts of the people who have seen and lived with these films. And when my generation gone and when it will be forgotten, this film will still give in 30 or more years an idea of how and where we have grown up in this very concrete piece of German geography.

Rüdiger Tomczak


Screenings:
Tue, Feb, 10, Cinemaxx 8, 22.00
Thurs, Feb 12, Zeughauskino, 19.00





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