Wim Wenders: Portraits Along the Road

by / Apr. 6, 2016 3am EST

If you’re of less than a certain age and a devotee of foreign language films, there’s a good chance that you owe that to Wim Wenders, whose 1987 Wings of Desire entranced a whole new generation of moviegoers to expand their expectations of cinema. This dreamlike story of restless angels monitoring the preoccupations of random humans has become a part of the collective imagination  even for people who have never seen the film. That is was Wender’s  biggest international hit is ironic given that he made the film to embrace his home country of Germany after failing to make an impact in Hollywood.

Wenders was born in 1945 in an area of Germany under Western occupation, and in his nearly 50 years as a filmmaker his work is marked by a common fascination with rootless, displaced souls. Jake Mikler of Little Red Booking has assembled a month-long series of Wenders’s key films, some of which have been very difficult to see in the United States.

Running on Thursday nights at the Amherst Theatre, the series opens this week with Kings of the Road (1976), the culmination of his early career and the third in what has come to be known as Wenders’ “Road” trilogy. Mikler will introduce the film, which follows two men who travel around Germany in the van from which one runs a film projector repair service.

Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1984 (a wonderful year for movies), Paris, Texas (April 14) stars Harry Dean Stanton as a man trying to rebuild his life after four years spent wandering the desert. Much of the early part of the film has no dialogue, carried entirely by Stanton’s famously weather-worn face, Robby Mueller’s gorgeous cinematography, and the American score by Ry Cooder (who was instrumental in the production of Wenders’ documentary  Buena Vista Social Club). It will be introduced by local film scholar Girish Shambu.

Wings of Desire, presented by Jordan Smith of Cultivate Cinema Circle, will be screened on April 21. The series concludes with a Sunday afternoon screening on May 1 on the film that was both Wenders’ biggest production and yet the hardest one find, Until the End of The World, which I will have the honor of introducing (being one of the few locals who has actually seen it). An epic story filmed around the world set in the then-future of 1999, it ran more than five hours before it was cut by the US distributor to half that time; not surprisingly, it flopped. Although the film is still unavailable in the US (and most of the rest of the world) on DVD, the screening will feature a restored director’s cut running 280 minutes.