Curzon Cinemas presents a select Wim Wenders retrospective with a beautiful new print of his romantic, metaphysical love story from 1987.

Reviews by Joyce Glasser wings of longing (June 24, 2022) Certificate 12A, 127 min

As Wim Wenders told a spellbound crowd at the Curzon Mayfair at the opening of a selective retrospective of his work, he wanted to be a painter until his mid-twenties and loved the structure of seeing pictures in a frame. Like Wenders’ compatriot Ulrike Ottinger (see her autobiographical film, Paris calligrams) Wenders moved to Paris in the mid-1960s to pursue his passion. After art classes, he sought out the warmth of the cinematheque and watched five films a day, many American and British, ‘by going to the loo’, until cinema became his new passion.

All his passion and artistry went into his Palme d’Or award-winning tribute to American cinema, Paris, Texas (which will be re-released in Retrospective on July 29). But with fluent English and an unlikely Teamsters card in hand, he got homesick and felt, “I had to live in America before I could come back to Germany and see it.” See and hear what we do — especially a shared one Berlin – through the eyes and ears of German angels, Damiel (Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (Otto Sander), in a beautifully beautiful 4K restoration of his 1987 film, wings of longing.

The inspirations? Many: from Wender’s Catholic upbringing to other films, such as A matter of life and death which also juxtaposes monochrome with color film and where angels are jealous of humans. Then there are the angels in the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, or this one of his Ariel: “How sweet, how tempting: to give up all your magic and submit to fate like the others.” That’s what Damiel does.

if wings of longing feels like two films fused together, an impression sustained by the director’s approach to filmmaking and style. It can also express a symbolic wish for the reunification of Germany two years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. According to Wenders, the film was shot in chronological order (which is almost impossible for most films today due to cost considerations) and ideas were translated into scenes late each night depending on the locations available – the Berlin Wall scenes were shot in the studio. A largely silent film, dialogue by Peter Handke was later added and recorded as a voiceover. The circus music and angel fragments were composed by specialized composers and added to Jürgen Knieper’s score.

The first half of the film, shot in a subtly nuanced monochrome, sees Damiel and Cassiel, clad in long trench coats with Japanese warrior hairstyles, wandering the city, listening to their worldly voices and bearing witness as they have done for millennia. Only children can see the angels. handke poem, childhood songwith opening lines reminiscent of Paul Corinthians 13:11, “when I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child…” but with a different meaning, is a poetic theme throughout and builds to a powerful ending on.

The angels see a woman in labor being taken to the hospital; a woman in a car berating her unfaithful husband; and A Joke From This Rock ‘n’ Roll Loving Director, a scene in which a father, fed up with the noise and expense of his rock ‘n’ roll obsessed son, laments, “I already bought him a guitar.” and now he needs drums.’ A man feeling like a failure suddenly becomes optimistic that he can change with a comforting arm around him, but Cassiel cannot save a suicidal man.

The two angels meet, exchange ideas and leaf through their diaries: “Today twenty years ago a Soviet jet fighter crashed into Lake Spandau” and “Fifty years ago were the Olympic Games” (which could bring back memories of the 1972 terrorist attack). Munich games). At one such meeting, sitting in an empty car on Potsdamer Platz (the heavily bombed site was wasteland at the time), Damiel first posits the idea of ​​“taking the plunge”: “…Sometimes I’m fed up with mine transcendent existence. I don’t always want to float above. I would rather feel a weight inside me.”

Unlike Hollywood and mainstream films in general (which Wenders admires but refuses to direct), where everything is planned and known before filming begins, it was three weeks into filming that Wenders realized that she needed another character. Peter Falk was perhaps suggested because of his compassionate face and Columbo’s powers of observation. Falk had been a very popular character in Germany (Ganz and Sander were mostly theater actors) since Columbo first aired in West Germany in 1973, and indeed audiences welcomed him wherever he went. Wenders, who describes Falk as “gentle and funny,” says he called him at home in Los Angeles and immediately offered him the role of “an ex-angel.” Falk laughed and said, “I’ve done some of my best work like this” (i.e. on the cuff).

One of the many jokes in the film is on the plane to Berlin where, thanks to Damiel’s mind reading skills, we hear Falk playing himself as an actor on his way to a job in Berlin and thinking to himself, “It’s amazing how little I know about this part . Maybe I’ll discover it while filming…” What Falk discovers is that he can sense the presence of an angel even though he can’t see it. In one of the most touching scenes, Falk “senses” Damiel’s presence at a coffee stand and tells him what he loves about becoming human: “Smoking and drinking coffee – and when you do that together, it’s fantastic. Draw, and when your hands are cold you rub them together…”

The turning point for Damiel and for the film, which transitions into color mode in the second half, is his discovery of the beautiful but lonely aerial artist Marion (Solveig Dommartin) just before The Circus Alekan (named after the film’s famous cinematographer, Henri). Alekan) is closed. Dommartin was trained for the role and performed her own gravity-defying stunts. In another joke, Marion is first seen swinging on angel wings under the circus roof and the manager barks, “For heaven’s sake, don’t dangle, you’re an angel: FLY.” Here, right halfway, begins a romantic, metaphysical love story. Marion and Damiel eventually meet up at the crowded nightclub where Marion comes alone to listen to the Australian groups who gravitated to Berlin in the 1980s, such as Crime and the City Solution and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, who performed in the film occur.

“It’s amazing how the language you grew up with shapes you,” says Wenders wings of longing is a film about time and being human, it is also a film about the human need to tell stories: to keep records and pass them on. A main setting is Hans Scharoun’s Berlin State Library from the 1960s, and the fifth main character is the ancient storyteller Homer, who wanders the city taking pictures because “people need me”. Homer was the final role of then 86-year-old Curt Bois, who played the pickpocket 45 years earlier Casablanca. Homer, Damiel and Cassiel are time and story writers, as well as filmmakers. The film is “dedicated to all former angels, but especially to Yasujiro, François and Andrej” (Yasujirō Ozu, François Truffaut and Andrei Tarkovsky).

Curzon Cinemas presents a select Wim Wenders retrospective with a beautiful new print of his romantic, metaphysical love story from 1987.

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