One of the icons of New German Cinema gets the retrospective treatment in Liverpool this month. Film director Wim Wenders is known for his rugged yet lyrical eye, wandering road movies, and his collaborations with the likes of Robby Müller, Sam Shepard and Peter Handke across such acclaimed films as Wings of Desire, Alice in the Cities and Paris, Texas.
This summer, Picturehouse at FACT presents a season featuring six of Wenders’ best regarded features – allowing audiences a taste of just why the director is so well regarded. The films start with Alice in the Cities (Fri 29 July), Wenders’ 1974 bittersweet odd-couple road movie about a German journalist who is unexpectedly saddled with a nine-year-old girl on a trip from the USA to Germany.
Wenders’ work often straddled those two counties, and while he physically directed films set in each of them, he also borrowed liberally from the traditions of Hollywood and American literature, filtering them through his own perspective as an artist born in pre reunification Germany.
Indeed, audiences can catch 1977’s The American Friend (Sun 14 Aug), an excellent, if unconventional, adaptation of American crime novelist Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley’s Game starring Dennis Hopper, but set in Hamburg. Or 1984’s Paris, Texas (Sun 28 Aug), an almost quintessentially American picture featuring Harry Dean Stanton, Dean Stockwell and Nastassja Kinski, about a man who emerges from the desert and sets about reuniting with his family.
Released in 1976, Kings of the Road (Sun 7 Aug) is another example of Wenders’ playing with American genre in a German setting, as two men embark on a road trip along the Western side of the East German border visiting old movie theatres and repairing projectors.
And yet there is more to Wenders’ cinema. 1987’s Wings of Desire (Sun 24 July), is a fantasy set in divided Berlin, where two angels survey the mortals below, only for one to fall in love and give up his wings in order to experience the wonders and sensations of humanity. Newly restored in 4K, the film should look as good as ever on the big screen in Liverpool.
Rounding out the season is Buena Vista Social Club (Sun 21 Aug), the director’s celebrated 1999 documentary about Cuban musicians forgotten in the wake of Fidel Castro’s rise to power. The film is a reminder of the breadth of Wenders’ work across a fifty-plus year career that has spanned fiction film, documentary, television and photography. For those looking to explore that career, FACT’s six-film season makes for a perfect entry point.