Sunday, 3 January 2010

The American Friend (Wim Wenders, 1977)

Hopper arrived in Hamburg strung out from filming ‘Apocalypse Now’ (still dressed as the photojournalist) and was, according to Wenders, ‘Drugged out of his mind, almost suicidal...a living disaster, impossible to shoot with’. Miraculously, he looks his most handsome in this film, as befits his role as the seductive, duplicitous Ripley. Hopper’s real-life turmoil inevitably leaks into his portrayal of Ripley as an unhinged loner who’s successful
but far from happy. With a friend like that, you might say. But is this American a saint or sinner? Wenders draws out the moral ambiguity of Highsmith’s creation, playing with double-meanings...the framer, being framed, reality and cinematic ‘reality’ (there are roles for Nicolas Ray and Sam Fuller). It’s a film that’s partly a homage to film legend, but mostly a study of identity, the identity of the artist, the conman, and the family man capable of being driven from the security of home life towards homicide. Bruno Ganz is terrific as the picture-framer Ripley befriends; a man plagued by questions regarding his physical condition, the real nature of which is also in doubt. Hopper may have been suicidal, but the film also questions the value of life, and the lives of others to a man whose own looks increasingly fragile.


  1. Apparently what allegedly happened was that Bruno Ganz punched him out on the first day and told him not to come back til he was together...which was the start of his straightening up!

  2. Well, it's cheaper than a rehab clinic.

  3. I like the bit where Bruno's playing a Kinks record. Well I would ...

  4. And Ripley was going to bring The Beatles back to Hamburg...heh-heh...


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