Alice in den Städten (Alice in the Cities)

1974

Alice in den Städten (Alice in the Cities) (1974)

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Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Phillip is a roving German reporter who, after a chance encounter with an elusive American woman, reluctantly accepts temporary custody of little Alice. Phillip takes Alice in hand on a trek across Germany to locate the girl's grandmother.

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Critic Reviews for Alice in den Städten (Alice in the Cities)

All Critics (16) | Top Critics (2)

With this film, Wenders crystallized his style of existential sentimentality.

Aug 24, 2015 | Full Review…

There are points when the director allows his voice to ring a little loudly from behind the camera, but the richness and depth of both the photography and the characterisation manage to brush any signs of preachiness and sentimentality from view.

Feb 9, 2006 | Rating: 4/6 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

a simple story beautifully and poignantly told

Jun 16, 2016 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Wenders' salient, head-clearing travelogue

Nov 25, 2011 | Full Review…

Only just barely.

Nov 28, 2008 | Rating: 3/5

It takes a long time for Wenders to get where he wants to go but it's worth the wait... .

Sep 5, 2008 | Rating: A- | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Alice in den Städten (Alice in the Cities)

It's easy to imagine complaints that "nothing happens" in this nearly two-hour film from the young Wim Wenders, but its pacing is so perfect -- exactly as slow as the story requires, but not a minute slower -- that I only marveled at its confident, expert direction. Philip Winter (Rudiger Vogler, who played the same character in five Wenders films spanning 20 years) is a German journalist visiting America to write a story about his impressions. But his muse has let him down, and instead he finds himself just snapping endless Polaroid photos. (Seasoned Wenders fans will note his steady motif of characters fixated on capturing reality through a camera.) When the airport tells Philip that his flight home is delayed, he meets two other stranded Germans: an attractive woman named Lisa and her nine-year-old daughter Alice. After Lisa and Philip strike up a friendship, Lisa says she has unfinished business with Alice's nearby father and -- rather implausibly, yes -- hands Alice over to Philip and tells them to fly overseas without her. She'll catch up later. From there, the story rests almost entirely upon Philip and Alice (Yella Rottlander). The script does not make any great demands on Rottlander (whose acting career included only three other roles), but she is a relaxed, natural presence. Just an ordinary kid, minus any exaggerated spunk or wit. When Lisa does not arrive in Amsterdam as scheduled, Philip and Alice are forced to live as temporary companions. Philip has little money and can scarcely provide for himself, much less for a young girl who's typically self-absorbed and oblivious to budget concerns. But the two bond anyway, and the script does a nice job of portraying them as equals and avoiding the situation's potential creepiness (though it's a safe bet that, if this film were made today, Rottländer wouldn't casually walk around shirtless). Philip remains kind and patient with Alice, but understandably becomes nervous about the possibility of being saddled with an abandoned child. Alice's mention of a grandmother sends them on a rental-car journey to find her, but weak knowledge of the woman's name or whereabouts means the search is difficult. Until the very end, it's unclear whether the story will firmly resolve or just fade away (but, hey, that final shot is a snazzy reverse-zoom). Krautrock legends Can perform the score, though it's not impressive and lacks the band's typical groove. "Alice in the Cities" also has what may be the least likely Chuck Berry cameo ever, though it's obvious that Wenders just borrowed some Berry concert footage and used cross-cuts to simulate his actors sitting in the audience.

Eric Broome
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer

The innocent curiosity of a child against the cynicism and disinterest of an adult. All about rambling, clashing and finally bonding. Beautiful film.

Pierluigi Puccini
Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer

there are many films in this genre going back at least as far as chaplin's 'the kid.' i'll still say without hesitation that this is my favorite. great chemistry between the two lead characters, fascinating references, the director's choice of b&w and wonderful filming locations are all just part of it. there are some truly lovely scenes here and wenders manages never to stray too far into sentimentality, a common pitfall of films on this theme, including chaplin's. here's a handful of odd and magical moments: tho phillip seems bored with america, on his return to germany we see him at a chuck berry concert drinking coca-cola. great use is made of the wuppertal schwebebahn, an early floating monorail. a small boy on a bike races their car through one of the towns in the ruhr district. the touching final scene, shot first from inside, then outside a train. note: the film has been difficult to find in the u.s., which is a pity. it's currently streaming at hulu plus. see it while u can.

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

Phil Winter (Rüdiger Vogler), a German journalist with a bad case of writer's block, decides to fly home from New York to finish an article he is writing about America. His hopes of meeting his unsympathetic editor's deadline are frustrated when a compatriot making the same journey stays behind to resolve a troubled relationship, leaving her nine year old daughter, Alice (Yella Rottländer), in his care. One of the things I like about this movie is the fascinating contrast between the director's rabid enthusiasm for Americana and his central character's ambivalence towards it: childlike wonder versus jaded cynicism. In addition to telling a sweet story with an admirable lack of sentimentality, Wenders appears to be commenting on the pervasiveness of American popular culture, whether it be Canned Heat on a jukebox in Wuppertal, Chuck Berry on a European tour or John Ford's obituary in a German newspaper. Though the film is not quite free of the stodgy dialogue that would go on to spoil his next feature, The Wrong Move, some truly magical moments more than compensate, for example Phil and Alice's ride on the extraordinary Schwebebahn monorail - whose cinematic potential was surely Wenders' main reason for sending the pair to Wuppertal - or the part where Phil attempts to impress Alice by 'blowing out' the lights of the Empire State Building.

Stephen M
Stephen M

Super Reviewer

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