Quite a few interesting points here. My personal 'break-up' with Wenders was not after "Wings of Desire", but only after his return to the US, that is, with "The End of Violence". I followed all his films including DCK, nevertheless, but am rather unsure what to make of them. My main problem is that he tries to tackle social (and partly spiritual) problems of the US as an outsider. This might make for an interesting perspective, but he tries to outdo the Americans by looking with a stance which is the European's eye of how the world and especially America seemed to be and should be, and thus he indeed uses approaches which only end up with clichÃ©s and an incredible naivitÃ© . The end of "Land of Plenty" with the two main characters looking at Ground Zero might have come out straight of some patriotic Oliver Stone movie, and it is so unnecessary to 'point with the finger' at a possible connection between the spiritual homelessness of the characters and 9/11. DCK makes for more interesting viewing, imagewise, but it suffers from a lack of depth both in portraying Sam Shepard's character's personality and that of the people he meets. It all seems clichÃ©d, which would be acceptable if the film had an ironic approach, but it hasn't. "The End of Violence" is plain unbearable with its idea of the sudden personal change of that Hollywood producer, only becuase he stays with those Mexican (?, can't remember now) immigrants. All these films present idealized, almost 'feel-good' versions of what Wenders seems to believe is the 'real' America.
John Cope wrote:(though I do like Million Dollar Hotel, a position which I'm sure will serve to invalidate anything else I say in the eyes of many);.
Not in mine. That's the only of his late films that I really like. It's also not exactly great, but here he does what he does best: present some extraordinary, 'poetic' characters, create a universe of their own, and manages to get a great unity of images and music. One of the reasons why I like his post-"Wings" period best is the incredibly style and 'fairy-tale' atmosphere he creates by simply commenting on the action by music, by enhancing the images and the story with this simple means of evoking a 'spiritual' mood. This goes especially for "Lisbon story" and "The End of the World" (which really only should be judged in the long version; the shortened theatrical version is a failure, but it was not Wenders' fault), but it is also apparent in a seemingly simple film like "Notebook on Cities and Clothes". None of these films is exactly 'critical' or 'relevant' if you're concerned with social criticism (although "End of the World" tries to), but as pure visual works they are sometimes truly breathtaking. And I can't help it: the acting was much, much better in these films than in his newer works. It is perhaps this combination of things that makes these films so emotionally compelling, but never sentimental. And because they function as films, they can carry a 'message' successfully, whereas "Land of Plenty" and "End of Violence" start
with the message and are somewhat clumsy attempts at then illustrating it.
John Cope wrote:In a lot of ways, a film like Don't Come Knocking is more daring and visionary than something like The State of Things which complies immediately with those preconceived expectations. .
Very true. "State of Things" suffers from being over-intellectualized, by presenting us the message quite openly right from the beginning. I lost all interest in these characters after 30 mins. I really can't understand why "State of Things" is so highly regarded by many critics. For me, it's one of his worst films. It may be highly critical and self-reflexive, but that alone doesn't make a good film, and I also don't feel challenged by it.
John Cope wrote: It is, apparently, hard to believe that Wenders could be (like Lynch, Rudolph and King) willfully embracing a kind of socially perceived naivete, not as a glib and ironic device but rather as a truth to be taken seriously. What Wenders has been doing since Wings is not fashionable, especially in contemporary European film terms, and is thus not engaged with seriously; his achievements and great advances are not acknowledged. .
Very true, but the immediate post-Wings films successfully express this apparent naivetÃ© (without being naive, because here he KNOWS what he's talking about, and there is a lot of European romanticism in them), whereas the American films lack this success for me. That the 'emotional' approach was not popular with our hyper-socially-conscious intellectualist film critics is not very surprising; and I wouldn't very much care for it. The images in "End of the World" are still so fresh and unique (and were very inventive, technically, at the time) , and I admire the way how he reflects on the history of his trade in the films of that period in a 'loving' way expressing his enthusiasm for all things cinematic (check out the very charming "BrÃ¼der Skladanovsky" in this respect). The critics of DCK are even right when they say it's a hermetically sealed world, because you could say that for a lot of his films. But can that be a valid criticism? A filmmaker need not want to change the world, and the problem with his latest films is only that he tries to do precisely this. If you do not only not want to 'demystify' the world, but rather show the validity of myths it can become problematic if you bring them into too close contact with specific social realities (for instance post 9/11 America). These last films neither present America 'as it is' nor the 'mythic ideal' of America to a full extent.