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  • Wim Wenders: An Impossible Journey

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    Posted on: 03/11/2014

    To capture and communicate not just another’s life experience but the actual experience of life through film is Wenders’ true talent. With each of his stories he invites the viewer to move beyond cognition and to fight the desire to become a voyeur. Instead, he asks us to feel the lives of those onscreen.

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    Paris, Texas

    The greatest example is surely Paris, Texas (1984). Almost a decade after his Road Movie trilogy had whet cinephilic appetites – Alice in the Cities (1974), The Wrong Move (1975) and Kings of the Road (1976) – Paris, Texas debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and became his Palme d’Or-winning giant, securing his place in the unofficial contemporary auteur canon.

    Though the film’s themes include emotional detachment and voyeurism, Wenders denies us the distance of examining, judging or objectifying his characters. Brimming with existential angst and deeply moving in its contemplation over love as life, this is also a film that begs to be experienced in its original 35mm film print format, on a big screen.

    The time passed and the pain suffered in Harry Dean Stanton’s face becomes a paradox of life and death as the physicality of photochemical film further affords the image subtle movement. With the grain his expression becomes all the more weathered yet all the more vital. That the truly suffocating endlessness of the Texan desert terrain is not cinematically “clean” in sharpness or brightness as it would be on a digital copy is what allows the landscape to so casually envelop the silent, stoic, broken-but-not-yet-beyond-repair man before us. As if circling back upon itself, Paris, Texas is a continuation of the infinite search Wenders films are so often characterised by: the listlessness long ago prefigured in Alice in the Cities, as his characters there too embarked upon a search for someone who didn’t want to be found.

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    Alice in the Cities

    In Kings of the Road (1976), two near strangers travel from one broken down film theatre to the next, tasked with an unfathomable challenge: to repair the pit stops on a broken down landscape, to ask for a stay of execution from the harbinger of cinematic death. In Chambre 666 (1982) Wenders asks filmmakers of the highest esteem a number of questions, chiefly, “Is the cinema a language about to get lost, an art about to die?” As engaged with the medium as he is with its philosophical contemplation, Wenders also creates time capsules and captures lives.

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    Kings of the Road

    His documentaries Pina (2011) and Buena Vista Social Club (1999) are not those that use talking heads to fill us in on an experience we have missed. Beautifully navigating the piercing quality of Pina Bausch’s sensational dance choreography and the essence of life that informs the soulful Cuban music, Wenders foregrounds the art and in so doing never forgets to reveal to us the beauty of the artist.

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    Buena Vista Social Club

    Each pairing in the season Wim Wenders – Roads to Everywhere offers an impossible journey: the search for someone or something vital in a fictional world, and the revelation of art so fragile it might already be in pieces. But in each frame is an experience of life: full, flawed and yearning.

    - Tara Judah, Melbourne Cinémathèque committee

    Wim Wenders – Roads To Everywhere, presented by Melbourne Cinematheque, runs from 5 Nov – 19 Nov.

    Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas also plays in Nastassja Kinski On Film, while the auteur has contributed to Cathedrals of Culture.

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