(28/04/07) – The next period of Wenders film-making after Until the End of the World has been one of even more involvement in the film bodies, with film schools, the European Film Academy, and revisiting earlier subjects and collaborators and developing further as a documentary film maker, especially in music documentaries.
In 1998 Wenders directed one of the most successful music documentaries of all time in Buena Vista Social Club. The film of Ry Cooder’s efforts to bring the work of a group of Brazilian musicians to a wider audience exceeded all expectations to create a global success story. Wenders’ love of music can be seen through nearly all of his feature films, be it the use of one piece by Can in Kings of the Road, Whilhelm in Wrong Move playing a record by the Troggs, characters attending concerts by Chuck Berry (Alice in the Cities), Nick Cave and Crime and the City Solution, (Wings of Desire), or Jonathan in The American Friend singing ‘Baby, You Can Drive My Car’, at the point where he realises that Tom will never ‘bring the Beatles back to Hamburg’, or the beautiful sequence in Alice in the Cities in which a young boy enters a café and plays Canned Heat’s ‘On the Road Again’. Wenders’ has also made the performance documentary of Willie Nelson: Theatro( 1998), as well as a great film The Soul of Man, looking at the Blues musicians Blind Willie johnson, Skip James, and J.B. Lenoir., filmed as part of the ‘Martin Scorcese Presents the Blues’ series.
Land of Plenty (2004) formed the end of another loose trilogy of films. ‘The L.A. trilogy’ of The End of Violence (1996), Million Dollar Hotel (2000) and Land of Plenty, is again a strange mix with the films having more in common with other Wenders’ films than to themselves. All of the films have Los Angeles as the central location and surveillance as a central theme, but with the mix of different writers and the fact that Million Dollar hotel is on of the few Wenders film to be shot in one location, the films stand better as individual works than as a trilogy. Land of Plenty coming in the aftermath of 9/11 was not well received within America with its political stance condemning the paranoia of U.S. Homeland Security. The film did not get a theatrical release in the U.K. which is a pity given that it is one of Wenders’ stronger films of the past decade.
2006 saw the release of Don’t Come Knocking, the highly anticipated reunion of Wenders, Sam Shepard, and The West. While the film did not have the same impact as Paris, Texas, it is a good example of the current stage of Wenders career where he has been able to tour the world with his photographic exhibitions, whilst in his films, revisit old locations and collaborations to add to a body of films which carries, along with a distinct authorial mark, a series of dialogues with other writers, directors, Wenders’ films, and the whole history of film itself.
End – see links for parts I and II.
Anchor Bay’s Wim Wender’s boxset is out now. Titles included (referred to in bold italics in the text)are The American Friend, Lightning Over Water, A Notebook on Cities and Clothes, Paris Texas, The Scarlet Letter, Room 666, Tokyo-Ga, A Trick of the Light, Wings of Desire and The Wrong Move. Please follow the links provided to purchase a copy and support Kamera by doing so.