There is always a pleasure in movies that decide to discover the world at the same time as the viewer, who give you hand in hand to observe and even marvel at what you find on the way. For this reason, there is something magical in those road trip dramas that embrace the most existential and poetic part in sacrifice of more conventional elements such as the plot or trying to exploit the tear through script choices calibrated for it.
It is, of course, a tricky thing to capture, because of its elusive and abstract nature, and it’s hard to hold the viewer in like this, or they may even be lost by what they’re seeing. It would be almost impossible to make a perfect road movie dedicated mainly to observation. But the fact is that there already was, and it can be rescued through Amazon Prime Video (and also in filmin). Is about ‘alice in the cities‘.
The moments that we take
The German Wim Wenders proposes us to follow the story of a German journalist who travels to the United States with a creative block, going from one place to another to see if he can find ideas to write his book. His attempts are constantly thwarted, and he only seems to find motivation in the pictures he takes, which is insufficient for his editors. With his contract canceled and no money, decides to return to Germany.
At the airport he meets a couple of compatriots, a woman and her daughter, with whom he ends up connecting until there is a flight to the country. Keeping each other company through the night, her mother ends up mysteriously disappearing, and it falls to the reporter to accompany the 9-year-old to Amsterdam and try to make it home.
Wenders poured into this story part of his personal creative block and his experiences trying to figure out where to direct his career, at the same time that he resolved his frustrations with the adaptation of ‘the scarlet letter‘, feeling that it did not fully connect with the story and that it did not fully resolve the role of the girl played by Yella Rottländer. Then this same actress would be the Alicia with whom explore every corner of New York and the German countryside.
‘Alice in the cities’: what matters is the journey
The German filmmaker does not seem so obsessed with making the relationship between the reporter and the girl the axis that sustains the story, but rather that they are guiding characters who discover themselves and the environment together with us, those of us who watch the film. . Your trip matters, but not because of the stops themselves, but because of what happens between them. The film does not look for moments, it finds them and captures them through polaroids or Robby Müller’s exquisite black and white photography.
These details are what avoid simple comparisons with Peter Bogdanovich’s ‘Paper Moon’, which the director feared would be used to say that his tape is a cheap copy. But nothing further. ‘Alice in the Cities’ is one of the definitive versions of the road trip genre, a beautiful plot of how to find yourself when you seem most lost, and the wonderful start of a trilogy completed with ‘False movement’ and ‘In the course of time’. An absolutely essential film.