Alice in den Städten (Alice in the Cities) Reviews
Alice in the Cities is a weird little story. For one, what kind of mother abandons her 9 year old daughter with a bummed out 30-something? It's basically insane and improbable and yet that doesn't detract from the film's beautiful insights into how we connect (or in the case of the film's protagonist, disconnect) with the modern world and the people we grow close to, whether by choice or providence. It's a road movie (and a forebear to Wenders' masterpiece Paris, Texas, which this film really made me want to revisit), and a weird little adventure viewed through Wim Wender's brilliant brain and cinematographer Robby Muller's brilliant eye.
As I was watching it, I confess, it was boring. The incredibly bad quality black and white did not help, for sure. I don't know if the film needs a restoration, or if it was made so, but it looks like one century old.
However, I did not forget it. As days goes by, the memory of it is more and more clear, and the subtetlies of it slowly crawl to my soul and understanding.
I believe it needs - and deserves - at least a second watch.
the problem is - he is just taking pictures with a polaroid camera
He needs to return to Germany and that's when he meet Alice.
The story turns into an natural adventure and it's beautifully shot.
A bit sad, but at the same time uplifting. Cosy and easy, quite playful. It also feel very personal.
Cool that the tram-like things here are the same as the ones in his later film "Pina", at least I'm pretty sure of it.
8 out of 10 elephants in red Volkswagens.
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.