The American Friend (1977)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.5

Original title:   Der Amerikanische Freund

West Germany/France, 1977, , , , , , .  Screenplay by Wim Wenders, based on the novel Ripley’s Game by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , Wim Wenders.  Music by .  Production Design by , .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Ripley’s Game by Patricia Highsmith is the basis of this captivating, gorgeously shot thriller. Ripley, played here with great charismatic flair by Dennis Hopper, is asked to help out with the killing of a gangster and, in his characteristic ability to cause mayhem without taking on responsibility, suggests an alternative.  A mild-mannered picture framer () is suffering from terminal leukemia, so Ripley suggests offering the man money to commit the crimes. Ganz eventually agrees and the jobs grow in number, his friendship with Ripley tightening when he provides assistance in a particularly tough assignment to complete. The appearance of famous filmmakers in key roles adds to the flavor of insouciant flavor with which Wim Wenders directs this throwback to the kind of film noirs made by Poverty Row studios in the thirties and forties, but it’s not an indulgence in nostalgia thanks to its fresh energy and rich humour. Wenders’ own New German Cinema style is all over the proceedings despite the distinctly Hollywood plotline, and the performances are uniformly superb.

The Criterion Collection:  #793

Cannes Film Festival:  In Competition


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