Friday, July 15, 2011


Ive name-dropped Wim Wenders (most recently in my last Jim Jarmusch entry below) and his movie 'Alice In The Cities' so many times on this blog i think its time that i just write about it. Had any other director made a film with the same amount of vagueness and plot holes as Wenders did with 'Alice In The Cities' id be criticizing it left & right. But for some strange reason it doesn't bother me here. This dreamy film, which is the first part in a trilogy of unrelated road movies (the others being 'Kings Of The Road' and 'The Wrong Move') is best described as: "The Anti-Lolita" (a description I'm quite proud of if i may say so). Both films have the same basic plot and style: A black & film about a motherless child traveling on the road with an adult male (in Lolita the girls mother dies, whereas in Alice In The Cities, Alice's mother temporarily ditches her). The BIG difference between the 2 films is that 'Lolita' has the pedophile/sexual angle, while there's no hint of that whatsoever in 'Alice In The Cites'. This is just another example of a European filmmaker taking source material that the average director would've turned inappropriate but made it a heartfelt story instead. In the film, "Phil", a German photographer/photojournalist is temporarily stranded in new york city because there's an airline strike going on in Germany and he cant fly home. At the new york airport, Phil helps a German woman and her daughter (Alice), who are stranded just like him, book an alternative flight. Because they're going to be on the same plane the next morning (they book a flight to Amsterdam and plan to drive the rest of the way to Germany), Phil gets a hotel room with them. The next morning the mother is gone, leaving her daughter Alice behind with Phil (according to a note left behind, she had something important to take care of). This part of the story has always been a little strange to me. I mean, we've all met people for the first time who we feel we might be able to trust instantly, but not enough to leave your 9 year old daughter alone with. Luckily the director of this film was Wim Wender and not Todd Solondz. For the next few days the mother leads Paul & Alice on a wild goose chase around the world (literally) to find her. Eventually Phil & Alice give up the search for the mother and with nothing but a photograph and Alice's memory, the 2 set out to find Alice's grandmother instead. Their trek takes them across 3 countries (America, Amsterdam & Germany). Along with 'Lolita', 'Alice In The Cities' has a strong connection with Peter Bogdanovich's 'Paper Moon' which was released a year earlier. Both films are black & white road trips involving a young girl and an older male father figure.

Along with people like Jim Jarmusch, Peter Bogdanovich is one of the best modern directors to use black & white, and make it look so amazingly beautiful (see 'the last picture show' for further examples of Bogdonovich’s black & white talent). Real life father and daughter; Ryan and Tatum O’Neal, play depression-era con-artists on a road trip going from one scheme to the next. Tatum O’Neal totally steals the show. I love both movies equally, although i don't think its debatable that when you compare to the 2 child performances, Tatum O'neal is better. Maybe its just a coincidence, but these films not only have the same vibe and have similar plots, but there are quite a few scenes & shots from both films that look very similar...
Alice In The Cities (1974)
Paper Moon (1973)
Alice In The Cities
Paper Moon

Paper Moon

One scene in 'Alice In Cities' that stands out is where Phil is in the bathtub and Alice comes in because she cant sleep. Somehow this scene doesn't come off inappropriate. In addition to that, there are a few scenes in both films that do look a bit similar......
Lolita (1962)
The relationship between Alice and Phil is unique. At no point when Alice is left alone with him does she feel scared. Lets be honest, if a little kid is left alone with a strange man they'd be a little freaked out. But even before Alice's mom leaves her, she already forms a playful bond with Phil. She instantly trusts him. In fact, they get along so well in public that they're mistaken for father & daughter. Like any 2 people who are paired up with each other for a while, they do grow sick of each other but it doesn't last for very long. I guess that would be the biggest difference between 'Alice In The Cities' & 'Paper Moon'. Phil and Alice spend most of the film getting along, while Addy and Moze fight non-stop. You feel the bond between Alice and Phil so much through out the film that when they finally part ways in the end, it makes you feel a little sad. 
Obviously i love comparing and relating movies to one other, and 'Alice In The Cities' might be one of the best examples. Assuming you've read all of this (along with my other blog entries that mention this film: The Cinema Of Jim Jarmusch & I Travel Because I Have To...), you see that 'Alice In The Cities' branches off in to so many different directions. Its part of a trilogy, its influenced other films like 'Stranger Than Paradise' & 'I Travel Because I Have To' (director Karim Ainouz even said this himself at Anthology Film Archives a few months ago), it has a lot of similarities to 'Paper Moon', and was also inspired by the films of Yasujiro Ozo, who Wenders made a documentary about.


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