Friday, February 19, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Wim Wenders: A Retrospective

Wim Wenders, the award-winning German auteur who has explored existential rootlessness in such films as Wings of Desire and Paris, Texas, will be paid tribute in a series of screenings organised by the Thai Film Archive and the Goethe-Institut.

Highlights of Wim Wenders: A Retrospective include an outdoor showing of Wings of Desire in Bangkok’s Lumpini Park next Thursday and the first 3D screenings at the Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, which will distribute special glasses to the audience for the dance documentary Pina and Wenders’ 2015 drama Every Thing will be Fine.

“The Film Archive is excited to collaborate with the Goethe-Institut Thailand in organising ‘Wim Wenders: A Retrospective’. This is due not only the fact that Wim Wenders is a world-class German filmmaker, but also because we believe that films are one of the best learning tools. The reason why Wim Wenders has been admired around the world is that his films have brought audiences to discover mankind, the world we live in, and most importantly ourselves,” says the archive’s director, film historian Dome Sukvong in the program notes.

A fervent believer in the old-fashioned cinematic experience, Dome reckons the Wenders retrospective will give local film lovers a once-in-a-lifetime memory they can cherish.

“Nowadays, watching films, including the nine Wim Wenders’ films shown in this event, can easily be done on the Internet. However, watching films on a big screen with friends and strangers, who have a passion and faith in films, is not easy. This rare gathering is a marvellous chance for all moviegoers to watch good films that have been meticulously well preserved. Fine films enable us and our next generation to experience mankind and discover ourselves again and again.”

Born in 1945 in Dusseldorf, Wenders was one of the proponents of the New German Cinema movement in the 1970s. He had studied medicine and philosophy before moving to Paris in 1966 to study painting. He instead gravitated toward movies, receiving a “crash course in the history of film” at the Cinemateque Francaise. He returned to Germany in 1967 to enrol in the newly founded University of Television and Film Munich. During this time, he worked as a film critic, directed short films and helped found Filmverlag der Autoren, a distribution company for independent auteurs.

After graduating from film school, Wenders’ first feature was 1972’s The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter), which follows a brooding footballer as he’s sent out of a game for arguing and then commits murder.

Wenders then moved on with his Road Movie Trilogy, three dramas he made with cinematographer Robby Muller, who has shot most of Wenders’ films. They are Alice in the Cities from 1974, The Wrong Move from 1975 and Kings of the Road from 1976. The three low-budget efforts established a meandering style that Wenders and Muller would later follow for their bigger-budget efforts, including 1984’s Paris, Texas.

His international breakthrough came with 1977’s The American Friend, an adaptation of one of Patricia Highsmith’s crime novels, with Dennis Hopper as art forger Tom Ripley, who befriends a terminally ill picture framer portrayed by Bruno Ganz. It was West Germany’s official submission to the Oscars.

Triumphs for Wenders followed, including the Venice Golden Lion for The State of Things in 1982, the top-prize Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for Paris, Texas, Best Director at Cannes for Wings of Desire and Academy Awards nominations for for his documentaries Buena Vista Social Club, Pina and The Salt of the Earth.

From 1987, the Lumpini Park opener Wings of Desire (Der Himmel Uber Berlin) is about immortal guardian angels in Berlin. Weary of immortality, the celestial beings yearn for human experiences, with one of them, portrayed by Ganz, falling in love with a trapeze artist. American actor Peter Falk and the rock band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds also figure into the plot.

With Goalie’s Angst, the road movies Alice and Kings, and The American Friend representing Wenders’ New German Cinema period, the retrospective will also feature Paris, Texas and the 1993 Wings of Desire sequel Faraway, So Close! (In Weiter Ferne, so Nah!), to show off his mid-career efforts.

As a coincidence, the screening of Paris, Texas, will be exactly 31 years from the date the film was first shown in Thailand, in Lumpini Park on February 28, 1985, according to archive officials and film critic Manotham Theamtheabrat.

Lately, Wenders has committed to making films in 3D, which he believes immerses the viewer. It’s a medium he first explored with 2011’s Pina, about German dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch, who died in 2009. He stuck with 3D for last year’s Every Thing will be Fine, a harrowing drama about a writer (James Franco) who kills a child in a traffic mishap.

“I discovered that 3D had more potential than just for dance and architecture,” Wenders told the Guardian last year. “I could see it created a whole different presence in close-up. It has a magnifying effect, it’s like a magnifying glass, making everything stand out.”

Wim Wenders: A Retrospective runs from February 25 until March 5 at Lumpini Park and the Film Archive. Here is the schedule:

February 25, Lumpini Park
6pm, Wings of Desire

February 27, Archive
1pm, The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick
3pm, Alice in the Cities
5pm, Kings of the Road

February 28, Archive
1pm, The American Friend
3.15pm, Paris, Texas
6pm, Faraway, So Close!

March 5, Archive
1pm, Pina (in 3D)
3pm, Every Thing will be Fine (in 3D)

Seats can be booked in advance until Saturday at For the Lumpini Park screening, there is a Facebook events page. And for more details, check or the Goethe website.

(Cross-published in The Nation)

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