Alice in den Städten (1974)

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Alice in den Städten: Directed by Wim Wenders. With Rüdiger Vogler, Yella Rottländer, Lisa Kreuzer, Edda Köchl. A German journalist is saddled with a nine-year-old girl after encountering her mother at a New York airport.

“Alice in the Cities (1974)u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eIf there are movies, like comedies and horror films, that are better seen in a crowd, there are some movies that might be best seen alone. This is one of them, and I didnu0026#39;t realize until I was almost done because it had become so absorbing I was really enjoying my isolation within the movie. u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThe plot is simple, and I wonu0026#39;t say how it happens, but a nine year old Dutch-German girl is left with a German man in the United States, and he takes care of her as they search for a way to find her mother or grandmother. Their first step is to fly back to Amsterdam, and then in Germany in a little car they poke around looking for her home.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eItu0026#39;s a road movie, though unlike any other. The two main characters are about as perfect and as natural as it gets. The man is a thoughtful, drifting writer and photographer, an artist in the counter-culture way of the times. He has no real ambition, but observes the world with poetic appreciation. So when this girl is made part of his life, he takes it in stride. Thatu0026#39;s key to the mood of the film, that this very unlikely situation can continue for so long because he just goes with the flow. There is no running to the police, no panic. But there is no sense either that this is an accepted new relationship. Itu0026#39;s for the moment, but the end of the moment is continually deferred.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThe girl goes with the flow as well, and is as brilliant as the man at being natural in front of the camera, often doing nothing. Sheu0026#39;s made to be lovable, of course, but not in any coy or sentimental way. (If this were a Hollywood film weu0026#39;d all be barfing by now.) All of this matters because it isnu0026#39;t whatu0026#39;s happening that really matters, but itu0026#39;s just being together, the two of them, and then (you realize) the three of you. You wish it was you who was doing this utterly humane, deeply felt act of traveling and being supportive and seeing modern (1973) Germany.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThe filming is simple black and white but brilliantly effective, down to the heart wrenching last shot (which was probably the most expensive). The setting is actually a surprise in that you never think of the ordinary middle class and industrial parts of middle Europe being so interesting. The music comes and goes, and refers to the earthy music of the time, mostly American blues based stuff. u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eIn a little way this reminded me of u0026quot;Stranger than Paradiseu0026quot; and when I connected the two I saw how much Jarmusch (in that film) owed to these art film experiments just a few years earlier. And now that I think of it, this one is more touching and important even if u0026quot;Stranger than Paradiseu0026quot; is more inventive. u0026quot;Alice in the Citiesu0026quot; makes a case for a kind of film we donu0026#39;t see being made now, and which might have another vogue one of these years in reaction to the general highly refined, highly artificial worlds of most movies today. I hope so.”


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