Criterion Collection: Wim Wenders: Road Trilogy
In the 1970s, Wim Wenders was among the first true international breakthrough artists of the revolutionary New German Cinema, a filmmaker whose fascination with the physical landscapes and emotional contours of the open road proved to be universal. In the middle of that decade, Wenders embarked on a three-film journey that took him from the wide roads of Germany to the endless highways of the United States and back again. Starring Rüdiger Vogler as the director’s alter ego, Alice in the Cities, Wrong Move, and Kings of the Road are dramas of emotional transformation that follow their characters’ searches for themselves, all rendered with uncommon soulfulness and visual poetry.
ALICE IN THE CITIES The first of the road films that would come to define the career of Wim Wenders, the magnificent Alice in the Cities is an emotionally generous and luminously shot journey. A German journalist (Rüdiger Vogler) is driving across the United States to research an article; it’s a disappointing trip, in which he is unable to truly connect with what he sees. Things change, however, when he is forced to take a young girl named Alice (Yella Rottländer) with him on his return trip to Germany, after her mother (Lisa Kreuzer)—whom he has just met—leaves the child in his care. Though they initially find themselves at odds, the pair begin to form an unlikely friendship.
WRONG MOVE Wim Wenders updates a late-eighteenth-century novel by Goethe with depth and style, transposing it to 1970s West Germany and giving us the story of an aimless writer (Rüdiger Vogler) who leaves his hometown to find himself and befriends a group of other travelers. Seeking inspiration to help him escape his creative funk, he instead discovers the limits of attempts to refashion one’s identity. One of the director’s least seen but earthiest and most devastating soul searches, Wrong Move features standout supporting performances from New German Cinema regulars Hanna Schygulla and Peter Kern and, in her first film appearance, Nastassja Kinski.
KINGS OF THE ROAD A roving film projector repairman (Rüdiger Vogler) saves the life of a depressed psychologist (Hanns Zisschler) who has driven his Volkswagen into a river, and they end up on the road together, traveling from one rural German movie theater to another. Along the way, the two men, each running from his past, bond over their shared loneliness. Kings of the Road, captured in gorgeous com-positions by cinematographer Robby Müller and dedicated to Fritz Lang, is a love letter to the cinema, a moving and funny tale of male friendship, and a portrait of a country still haunted by war.
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