Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
Original title: Der Amerikanische Freund
West Germany/France, 1977. Bavaria Film, Filmverlag der Autoren, Les Films du Losange, Road Movies Filmproduktion, Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Wim Wenders Productions, Wim Wenders Stiftung. Screenplay by Wim Wenders, based on the novel Ripley’s Game by Patricia Highsmith. Cinematography by Robby Muller. Produced by Joachim von Mengershausen, Wim Wenders. Music by Jurgen Knieper. Production Design by Heidi Ludi, Toni Ludi. Costume Design by Isolde Nist. Film Editing by Peter Przygodda. Cannes Film Festival 1977. National Board of Review Awards 1977.
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 (Bruno Ganz) 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.