Review – THE AMERICAN FRIEND (“Die Amerikanische Freund,” Wim Wenders, 1977, West Germany / France)

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DIE AMERIKANISCHE FREUND || 1977, West Germany / France || Thriller || Directed by – Wim Wenders / Written by – Wim Wenders (based on the novel Ripley’s Game by Patricia Highsmith) / Produced by – Renée Gundelach, Margaret Ménégoz, Joachim von Mengershausen, Wim Wenders / Music by – Jurgen Knieper / Cinematography by – Robby Muller / Editing by – Peter Przygodda / Art Direction by – Heidi Ludi, Toni Ludi / Starring – Dennis Hopper, Bruno Ganz / Running time: 127 mins.

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“The American Friend (Der amerikanische Freund)” by Wim Wenders (1977, West Germany / France)

Wim Wenders’ adaptation of the famous Particia Highsmith novel Ripley’s Game stands out in the noir and thrilles genre. It is the story of Tom Ripley, a dealer in forged art, who suggests that a framer with a terminal disease would make a good hitman.

But to hope to follow the story’s impossibly intricate nature would not only basically be a waste of time, but also ignore the different viewpoint offered by Wenders not only on this film, but in cinema in general. The American Friend is a film that is constructed on what is usually outside of the film, the parts not shown, the ponderous silences, the empty dialogues, the motivation that drives its central characters to the extreme. And amidst all this, it proves that there is a reason for the chosen title, as it ultimately puts in even more focus the fact that it is the bizarre friendship, as tender as it is antagonizing. In this sense, Hopper and Ganz recall Welles and Cotten in one of the greatest noirs of all time – The Third Man.

This very reference may be intentional, as it is obvious that The American Friend is also a tribute to the elements that build up the great atmosphere of the greatest of noirs. But its language is fresh, different and impulsive. Perhaps, the startling realism of the progression of the story is what makes the final part of the film feel surreal, as all the while it’s easy to forget that we’re watching a film that in its nature is meant to have a resolution. But that doesn’t lessen the collective power of a film that puts a new original spin on what is usually solidly structured and represent the original style of filmmaking often presented by one of the main exponents of the German New Wave.” 4/5

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