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Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders, 1987)

At home with Krystle as part of our attempt to get into a weekly movie watching groove.

It was a movie we both wanted to see. I had been wanting to see this film for a long time for a few reason: 1) Fascinated by the story in general, 2) It being Wenders' most famous and revered film, 3) Wanting to see something by Wenders knowing how he has a great respect for and has been influenced by quality directors such as Ozu.

What a mixed bag of a film. The first 3/4 of the movie were - for the most part - brilliant, when the film plays out like a documentary, merely following the angels around. It was strangely beautiful how their "job" is to help comfort those around them who need it the most, and yet they manage to remain emotionally detached from it all, which made the cry of the angel when the guy jumps off the building that much more powerful and unexpected. Great scene. Even better was the library scene as a whole, because it was the only truly uninterrupted scene that felt like it was allowed room to breathe before being rudely interrupted by some other clever scene. What an odd movie.

Having seen the film, given its content, the general critical spiritual reverance for it, and not to mention Wender's huge respect for Ozu, I refuse to believe that the mix of styles in the film is some Godard-ian cynicism or cleverness thrown in by Wenders to make some post-modern point. It seems to me that he takes all this rather seriously. So why dilute a film that starts off so beautifully with that whole Colombo thing? Sure it's clever, but it doesn't belong in this movie. It's too small to make a difference but it's big enough to be annoying and make you question why it's there.

Even if you forget all those bad scenes, I still wonder if the critical community mistakes a beautiful film for a deep film or if they're all just copying a press release. While the premise of the film: an angel wanting to become human to finally experience what only humans can, is a "big" idea, there's actually very very little that's done with it. And ideas alone shouldn't elevate a film, otherwise it's just falling prey to Kael's "Fantasies of the Art House Audience". There is no internal struggle from the Angel's POV, right off the bat he talks about wanting to be human and never really puts up much of a fight for the Angel's "side". And once the Angel becomes human - and forgetting that he's only shown as being human for about 20 minutes - all he does is go straight for the girl whom mysteriously recognizes him instantly, they kiss, the end. There's a long philosophical monologue by the girl before the kiss of course, but rather ironic isn't it that a film that's supposed to expound on the joys/sorrows of the human experience decides to climax with a ridiculously long monologue the likes of which would never be seen in real life? Neither the Angel or the girl ever encounter any real obstacles or decisions in the entire film. Everything just kinda falls into their lap. Isn't this kinda just a typical Hollywood romance hidden beneath an art-film veneer?

Of course having said all that, I did really like the film. I guess the ones I always write the most negative things about are the ones I'm angry at because I feel they had the potential to be even better than they were.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about this movie being flawed. The Peter Falk bit is sometimes incongruous. Some of the trapeze scenes seem to go on forever to me. The ending is a bit odd with the long monologue and can seem a bit overinflated.

Having said all that, I still have to give it a nearly perfect rating because I can think of very few movies that are so staggeringly original. Many parts of this movie are jaw-dropping, poetic, luminous and madly inspired.

I'll take what I can get here, since it's the kind of thing you won't get anywhere else and I can put up with the less compelling elements since the rest of it is so amazing.

July 20, 2009  

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