cutting on the action

photography and film – facts, ideas, values

FILM Wim Wenders Alice in the Cities [1974]






They never really show what it was you saw



Philip Winters in Alice in the Cities






FSFF offers three samples in YouTube with links to articles on Wenders. YouTube does Alice in the Cities in 10 parts under “A//ALCE//IN///CTIES PART 1 1974”.

Blurb in YouTube:

German journalist Philip Winter has a case of writer’s block when trying to write an article about the United States. He decides to return to Germany, and while trying to book a flight, encounters a German woman and her nine year old daughter Alice doing the same. The three become friends (almost out of necessity) and while the mother asks Winter to mind Alice temporarily, it quickly becomes apparent that Alice will be his responsibility for longer than he expected. After returning to Europe, the innocent friendship between Winter and Alice grows as they travel together through various European cities on a quest for Alice’s grandmother.

David Tacon’s 2003 article on Wenders in The Senses of Cinema puts Alice in the Cities in the context of the life and his other films.


ALice in the city 1


Alice in the city 2


Alice in the city 3


Alice in the City 4


Alice in the City 5


Alice in the City 6


Alice in the City 7


Alice in the city  8


Alice in the City 1-0


Alice in the city 1-1


And then, near the end of the film


Alice in the Cities 1-2


Alice in the Cities 1-3




Looking up reviews and analysis of the film I came across The Internet Movie Cars Database (!). Here for Alice, a series of still of all the vehicles that come into frame, Perhaps if one were being really nerdy, there would be comparison of the number of US car makes over European….

…..I was initially intrigued by this page because of the number of grabs of the film pe se.

*
The FSFF post on Alice lists a variety of essays/academic papers,
The Art of Seeing Rescues the Existence of Things: Notes on the Wenders Road Films and Henri Bergson’s Creative Evolution (Part 2) has some passages that get to the core of what Alice is about:

In Alice in den Städten and in Im Lauf der Zeit there may be a tendency by the main character to mirror the existential perceptions of the director/author. In Alice, the incapable of writing Philip, shifts his attempt to capture the “American scene” to photography. [37] Eventually all representations through writing and photography is abandoned and instead, Philip embarks on an improvised journey around a single photograph of Alice’s grandmother’s house. Like his lead character, Wenders abandoned the written text once the production had returned to Germany [..]

In Alice in den Städten, Philip Winter is paralysed by his writing assignment. Incapable of representing the American reality by way of the written word, he attempts to use Polaroid photography to achieve this end. As he explains to his magazine editor, “the story has to do with things that one can see … with pictures and signs.” [47] Franklin notes that Winter’s statement can be generally understood as a direct comment by Wenders to the spectator. As the narrative unfolds however, Winter’s snapshots are obviously as incapable as the written word of portraying the American reality. Winter complains that his instant snapshots, “never show what you’ve really seen.” [48] Like Wenders, Winter is powerless to capture the American scene.

Winter’s obsessive photography soon becomes a futile attempt at capturing reality. His German girlfriend in New York alludes to this when she says: “You always act as if you were the only one to experience things and that’s why you keep taking these pictures.” [49] Elsaesser comments that, “the mediations of writing, describing, recording, no longer reflect or hold the subject in any stable identity … polaroid pictures become the necessary and yet insufficient frame to hold the image of the self, which in its contact with the world is constantly threatened by dissolution.” [50] When Philip Winter complains about the complications Alice has brought into his existence, she answers him: “What else did you have to do? Just scribble in your notebook?” [51] Near the end of the film Alice asks Philip what he will do when he gets to Munich. He replies: “I’ll write an end to this story. And you?” [52] Alice simply shrugs.




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October 16, 2009 - Posted by | film [its techniques], Wim Wenders |

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