I’m one of those not convinced by the work of Wim Wenders. It’s not easy to say how many of his films might be said to be good, while probably none of them are great; and yet his name is still well known, although this is likely because he came to America when he did and made a name for himself under the tutelage of Francis Ford Coppolla.
Most of us appreciate Paris, Texas and Wings of Desire, but they are still movies which require patience, and suffer from over-meditation on the rather navel-gazing aspects of life – everything that Fassbinder is not.
In fact, when Fassbinder met Wenders in 1979 to shoot a scene for Wenders’ ROOM 666, Fassbinder saw the remit of the film (twelve contemporary film directors are locked one at a time in RM 666, where they are asked to talk for ten minutes on the future of cinema. Fassbinder joked; ‘Are you still at film school?’
Fassbinder had a point. Fassbinder’s films were entertaining because of dramatic situations and characters with well realised real-life problems; Wim Wenders’ films are regular art-house fare.
To say a film is good at all, you’ll probably be referring to how much you enjoyed it; the other definition of good centring roughly speaking on technique. It is a hard and fast rule that for a film to be entertaining stuff needs to happen, and it needs to happen to interesting characters that we care about. To be more specific, in this quick framework I am describing, the characters need real life goals and real life obstacles – not just goals and obstacles.
So, if you can say that the lead in Falsche Bewegung, or The Wrong Move (1975) has creative writing and getting to Bonn as goals, the reason you find the film so tedious and arty is because the goals are easily achieved and there are no particular obstacles to them.
Peter Kern is good however, as are the others, and it is the actors that bring everything to the party here. His character introduces himself: 'I have never anmounted to anything and I hope it stays that way'; and more intriguing yet: 'I get injured once a year; this year I fell on the edge of a chair and gashed the corners of my mouth.' Such naked exitstentialism has a historical place in 1970s cinema, and it's these looks into life, geography and people that Wim Wenders is all about. It's funny, but is so embedded in a past kind of cinema, that it can be quite tiring unless you are syudying the film for some specific reason, such as you may be trying to get to sleep in a new manner, literally by being dulled by the heavy musical chords and and imagery pregnant with questions and stillness.