Sunday, January 24, 2016

Schwarz und Weiß

The third film in AFS's Wim Wenders retrospective I've attended was also the third and final installment of his road movie trilogy.

But sadly I still have only a vague idea of what that label means to me, or specifically how the road movie genre is defined exactly. Apart from these three Wenders movies the only other examples I can think of are Easy Rider (1969, Dennis Hopper), Two-Lane Blacktop (1971, Monte Hellman) Scarecrow (1973, Jerry Schatzberg), Badlands (1973, Terrence Malick) Wild at Heart (1990, David Lynch), My Own Private Idaho (1991, Gus Van Sant), Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas (1998, Terry Gilliam), The Brown Bunny (2003, Vincent Gallo) and Prince Avalanche (2012, David Gordon Green).

Although I do love the variety of life experiences the genre's loose structure allows, the beautiful nature, rural and urban scenes photographed, and for the most part lack of a burdensome sense of plot getting in the way of the feeling of freestyle filmmaking. And the cool music.

Im Lauf der Zeit (1976, Wim Wenders) opens with intertitles telling us, in German, that the film was shot in black and white, at 1.66:1, and uses production sound. Last night I again, after last Friday's Falsche Bewegung (1975, Wenders) found myself spending Friday night watching a slow paced, Robby Müller shot, Wenders Road Movie and lost myself in another world. Except this time the movie was 3 hours, but no seriously it flew by.

Like Alice in den Städten (1974, Wenders) and Falsche Bewegung, the film stars Rüdiger Vogler. Vogler as the main character for the third time really has sealed my love of his work as an actor in these. This time he drives a bus that houses his mobile film mechanic shop, stopping in German towns to repair projectors in theaters. Vogler plays a character called BRUNO WINTER and encounters ROBERT LANDER (Hanns Zischler) at the beginning of the film in a sequence that builds up parallel editing of shots of Bruno parked in his bus out in the countryside getting ready to shave with shots of Robert speeding recklessly through city streets in his VW bug. Their first meeting is a wonderful collision both visually and figuratively.

Robby Müller's cinematography is again the highlight of the show. Shot on Orwo black and white 35mm, wide panning epic vistas of beautiful countryside, wonderful textures of paint chipped structures, and elegant gradients of shadows and light playing on the subjects are everywhere. And plenty of driving shots. The night exterior tracking the motorcycle through the country roads as we see a lightning bolt striking beyond in the horizon had me smiling.

Of all the trilogy Im Lauf der Zeit is the one that had me laughing out loud. Mostly it was shock laughter, as there are a few gags that arise out of graphic depictions of some bodily functions I'm definitely not used to seeing in a movie. Or when Bruno at the bumper cars ticket gate and a woman played by Lisa Kreuzer (Alice's mom in Alice in den Städten) shows up and asks for a light for her Hitler head candle completely deadpan.

Im Lauf der Zeit is really relaxing. It just feels like as long as you're in for the ride who cares about the usual priorities like plot, and an over arching theme. It's all character development and like being on vacation.

Among the later stops the duo make, the abandoned GI post recalls the candle light shack scene in The Grapes of Wrath (1940, John Ford) that Gregg Toland shot. In Alice in den Städten there was a scene in the motel the Vogler character stops in where he watches a scene from Young Mr. Lincoln (1939, Ford) along with a scene towards the end where the same character clips an obituary column of Ford titled "Lost World." And Im Lauf der Zeit has another scene where Bruno is on his truck and clips a photo from a film journal showing Ford on the set of Mogambo (1953, Ford) it looks like. So what's to be made of all this? What's the link, the reason for these references? People of the earth? Slower paced, tales set in the countryside with vast horizons and big skies? The black and white film?

Paper Moon was made by Peter Bogdanovich and released in 1973, the year before Alice in den Städten and has a shot where Ryan and Tatum O'Neil play characters eating in a diner where outside through the window a marquee can be seen that advertises Steamboat Round the Bend (1935, Ford) as its featured attraction. And Paper Moon is also shot in black and white and mostly rural. I don't know what point I'm trying to make with this, but it's impossible not to think of ADDIE when you see ALICE. I mean I'm not trying to imply anything negative about this link, if you can even call it that. Just speculating. Maybe I'm just trying to show off my memory or observation skills?

But okay, since I've already started down this road, there's also a moment in Im Lauf der Zeit when Bruno and Robert are talking about passing through the towns of Powerless and Peaceless. They mention that in between both towns is a mountain called Dead Man. Robby Müller went on to shoot Dead Man (1995, Jim Jarmusch). And Dead Man feels like a road movie for sure; also there's a shot in Im Lauf der Zeit of a symmetric 1 point perspective down a town's thoroughfare with a large tall building weighing the center in the background, just like the shot in Dead Man of the city of Machine with the smokestack; also there's a CU of the van's wheel spinning in Im Lauf der Zeit that looks and feel like the CUs of the train's wheels in Dead Man.

Apologies if anyone was expecting anything in-depth but this time here I just felt like writing a journal entry of a movie I really loved.


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2 Comments + Unabashed Criticism:

Blogger Fat Contradiction said...

Midnight Run? Stagecoach / Mad Max: Fury Road? Vanishing Point? Apocalypse Now? About a million Bing Crosby / Bob Hope movies? Cannonball Run?

6:46 PM  
Blogger Dregs Erroneous said...

How stupid of me. My confusion goes back to a supplemental interview from the 2005 My Own Private Idaho (1991, Gus Van Sant) Criterion DVD with a guy named Paul Arthur. He described movies referred to as revisionist road movies from the 80s and 90s and that was the first time I'd heard the term that I can remember. The ones mentioned begin with Easy Rider (1969, Dennis Hopper), go on to Stranger Than Paradise (1984, Jim Jarmusch), Lost in America (1985, Albert Brooks), Something Wild (1986, Jonathan Demme), Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987, John Hughes), Powow Highway (1989, Jonathan Wacks), Thelma & Louise (1991, Ridley Scott), The Living End (1992, Gregg Araki), Natural Born Killers (1994, Oliver Stone), Dumb and Dumber (1994, Peter Farrelly), The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994, Stephan Elliott), and The Doom Generation (1995, Araki).

I dig the Stagecoach (1939, John Ford) parallel.

I now understand a little more about the scope and how broad this genre is. I was thinking in too narrow of a definitive way of characterising these. Then that means Wild Boys of the Road (1933, William Wellman), It Happened One Night (1934, Frank Capra), and The Wizard of Oz (1939, Victor Fleming) count too. But Hope and Crosby, how could I miss that?

And come to think of it that means all of the Mad Max movies are road movies. Also reminds me of the superb Roadgames (1981, Richard Franklin) also from Australia.

Okay so there's hundreds. Finally I just want to call attention to a road movie called Honky Tonk Freeway (1981, John Schlesinger) because a Teamster I know, the legend himself Bobby Sconci recommends it and I enjoy it too.

1:10 PM  

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