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The American Friend
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A thriller that's nearly devoid of thrills? That's not a complaint--it's what makes The American Friend one of the most stylish (and, at the time, most expensive) films to emerge from the New German Cinema of the 1970s. Loosely adapting Patricia Highsmith's mystery novel Ripley's Game, director Wim Wenders shifted priority from plotting to character, emphasizing a richly colorful and atmospheric approach to locations in Hamburg, where a picture-framer (Bruno Ganz) is lured into an assassination scheme involving a mysterious Frenchman (Gerard Blain) and the titular American friend, Tom Ripley (played by Dennis Hopper, a far cry from Matt Damon's portrayal of the same character in The Talented Mr. Ripley). The plotting is vague to the point of irrelevance; Wenders prefers to maintain the aura of mystery, as opposed to generating any conventional suspense, and expresses his affection for American movies by casting favorite directors Nicholas Ray and Samuel Fuller in pivotal supporting roles. The result is an intoxicating example of cinematic cross-pollination. --Jeff Shannon
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But that's what noir is all about. Based on one of the Ripley novels by American ex-patriate author Patricia Highsmith (no doubt her ex-pat status appealed to Wenders), the film follows Jonathan Zimmermann (Ganz) in his descent into Noirville via Tom Ripley (Hopper) and Ripley's "partner" Minot, a sinister French man. This time out, unlike in the 1960 film Purple Noon (THE best cinematic version of Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley--far better than the recent version with Matt Damon), Ripley is an edgy guy (what else could Hopper be?--especially in 1977 when he was coked to the gills) who deals in art forgeries.
Along the way we meet an artist who does the forgeries, and that's famed director Nicholas Ray in a great role. Ray is one of Wenders' heroes--maybe his biggest hero--and he's here in his glory--sad single eye partnered with his trademark eyepatch, gaunt face and all. Three years later, Ray died of cancer. We also meet a gangster played by another of Wenders' favorite directors, Samuel Fuller. But Fuller's part is smaller than Ray's, which says something...
This is a perfect exemplar of the road to Hell being paved with good intentions. Zimmermann's one desire to take care of his family results in his being coerced into dark deeds that ultimately leave Zimmermann emotionally destitute.Read more ›
I state that because , first at all remember. we are talking about of Patricia Highsmith , one of the most gifted minds in the north american literatute. If you analyze all her literaries works, as Strangers on a train,(Hitchcock) or A plenn soleil(Rene Clement), you'll find all the characters are envolved in a cosmical trick. It's true that the hopeless who surrounds establishes an anticipated fate in all their actions. But what Highsmith adds in every work, including the american friend is the lack of any kind of feeling or ethical consideration carried to a level that they become in models. I mean, it's very hard for us to find by instance, with a character as Mr. Rippley in any street of any city in the world. These characters are not common.
That's the most remarkable virtue in Highsmith and Wenders so Clement and Hithcock understood and exploited this item like few.
Wenders,one of the three kings of the german filmography in the seventies, (together with Fassbinder, Herzog, and Hauff), knew how to deal with that and make a clever twist in an age where the key works of the neo film noir, a genre that slowly was left and replaced by thrillers with little trascendence.
This film , in my point of view, made grow up to Dennis Hopper, not only as actor, but as a filmmaker. (Remember his best work as director titled Colors).
This film is eternal. And that means just one thing: it's a masterpiece. And obviously, it will resist the years and far of getting old, it will enrich us, every time we watch it.
A stunning cinematic experience. A masterpiece and perhaps the finest transformation of Ms Highsmith's many Ripley adaptations, notwithstanding Mr Hitchcock.
Most recent customer reviews
Though I love Wim Wenders, and think Bruno Ganz is a terrific actor (as well as Hopper) This is one film that to me just meandered without any real clarity on anything. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Johnny Rocker
One of the best adaptations of a Patricia Highsmith novel (*Ripley's Game*) ever filmed, and one of Wim Wenders' best movies, too. Read morePublished on March 4 2003
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