Wim Wenders: The Road Trilogy The Criterion Collection
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In the 1970s, Wim Wenders was among the first true international breakthrough artists of the revolutionary New German Cinema, a filmmaker whose fascination with the physical landscapes and emotional contours of the open road proved to be universal. In the middle of that decade, Wenders embarked on a three-film journey that took him from the wide roads of Germany to the endless highways of the United States and back again. Starring Rüdiger Vogler as the director s alter ego, Alice in the Cities, Wrong Move, and Kings of the Road are dramas of emotional transformation that follow their characters searches for themselves, all rendered with uncommon soulfulness and visual poetry.
ALICE IN THE CITIES The first of the road films that would come to define the career of Wim Wenders, the magnificent Alice in the Cities is an emotionally generous and luminously shot journey. A German journalist (Rüdiger Vogler) is driving across the United States to research an article; it s a disappointing trip, in which he is unable to truly connect with what he sees. Things change, however, when he is forced to take a young girl named Alice (Yella Rottländer) with him on his return trip to Germany, after her mother (Lisa Kreuzer) whom he has just met leaves the child in his care. Though they initially find themselves at odds, the pair begin to form an unlikely friendship.
WRONG MOVE Wim Wenders updates a late-eighteenth-century novel by Goethe with depth and style, transposing it to 1970s West Germany and giving us the story of an aimless writer (Rüdiger Vogler) who leaves his hometown to find himself and befriends a group of other travelers. Seeking inspiration to help him escape his creative funk, he instead discovers the limits of attempts to refashion one s identity. One of the director s least seen but earthiest and most devastating soul searches, Wrong Move features standout supporting performances from New German Cinema regulars Hanna Schygulla and Peter Kern and, in her first film appearance, Nastassja Kinski.
KINGS OF THE ROAD A roving film projector repairman (Rüdiger Vogler) saves the life of a depressed psychologist (Hanns Zisschler) who has driven his Volkswagen into a river, and they end up on the road together, traveling from one rural German movie theater to another. Along the way, the two men, each running from his past, bond over their shared loneliness. Kings of the Road, captured in gorgeous com-positions by cinematographer Robby Müller and dedicated to Fritz Lang, is a love letter to the cinema, a moving and funny tale of male friendship, and a portrait of a country still haunted by war.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
- New, restored 4K digital transfers of all three films, commissioned by the Wim Wenders Foundation and supervised by director Wim Wenders
- Audio commentaries for all three films, featuring Wenders and actors Rüdiger Vogler, and Yella Rottländer on Alice in the Cities, and featuring Wenders on Wrong Move and Kings of the Road
- New interview with Wenders, directed and conducted by filmmaker Michael Almereyda
- New interviews with Vogler, Kreuzer, Rottländer, and actors Hanna Schygulla and Hanns Zischler
- Outtakes and Super 8 home movies
- Restoring Time, a 2015 short about the restoration work done by the Wim Wenders Foundation
- Same Player Shoots Again (1967) and Silver City Revisited (1968), two newly restored early short films by Wenders
- New English subtitle translations
- PLUS: A book featuring essays on the films by filmmaker Allison Anders, author James Robison, and critic Nick Roddick
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Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with this set. The films look stunning and are of excellent quality (typical for Criterion). 'Alice in the Cities' and 'Kings of the Road' are presented in black and white, while 'Wrong Move' is in color.
'Alice in the Cities' (1974) runs for 113 minutes and is probably the most well known film in this set. It is a beautiful and subtle film. Though slow in pace, I never felt bored watching it. An interesting experience with the added bonus of great performances by both Rüdiger Volger (who appears in all 3 films in this set) and Yella Rottänder as Alice. They both display a wonderful bond in this film that is a joy to watch, and I highly recommend it. 8/10
Next in the trilogy is 'Wrong Move' (1975), my personal favorite of the set. The only part of the trilogy to be presented in color, 'Wrong Move' runs for 104 minutes. Now this film feels more like a road movie than any of the others. The character dynamics in this film are very interesting and each of the actors plays their part well. Overall, I was entertained by this film and, as I said above, it was my favorite in this set. 8.5/10
Now we get to the final film, 'Kings of the Road' (1976) which runs for an exhausting 176 minutes. I gotta be honest and say I did not enjoy this film as much as the others. It has some interesting moments and developments, but I feel as if it's excessive runtime bogged it down. I don't mind extremely long movies, but they have to have substance to merit the runtime. Unfortunately this film just didn't do it for me. There is merit to the film (the directing and acting are still top notch) but I definitely couldn't get into it as much as the others. 6/10
Finally, there's a nice little booklet that comes with the films with a brilliant collection of essays. The special features are interesting, as usual Criterion pulled out all the stops.
Overall, I'd say this set is worth the money. If road movies are your thing, and you don't mind black and white, then give it a try.