3/23/14

The American Friend (1977): Hopper Hops to Hamburg

Synopsis: When Tom Ripley (Dennis Hopper) comes to Hamburg, he is approached by a French mobster to perform a hit. Instead, Ripley proposes to convince humble frame maker Jonathan (Bruno Ganz) to commit the murders instead by spreading a rumor that his terminal medical condition has taken a turn for the worse. When the plan works and the mobster makes plans to continue to use Jonathan, Ripley has a change of heart about his newfound friend.

Review: The American Friend is my first Wim Wenders movie. So I have nothing to compare it to in that arena. In all honesty, I didn't realize it was based on a Patricia Highsmith Ripley book until I had already got the film. I wanted to see it based solely on the cast which included two of my favorite directors, Sam Fuller and Nicolas Ray, in supporting roles alongside Hopper and Ganz. Their appearances, especially that of Fuller as a mobster and pornographer, were enough on their own to make me adore this film. However, there was much more to unfold here in The American Friend’s neo-noir tale of betrayal and friendship.

The American Friend moves with a sleekness though a world awash with an exaggerated color palate that brings the feeling of Noir without sacrificing the spectrum of tones. Since it moves so effortlessly, Wenders chooses wisely what to show the audience and what to leave out. Certain portions are hard to follow in a spacial sense with characters moving across countries or continents suddenly. Ganz and Hopper both bring the goods, and they deliver on the relationship between the two men with an effortless ease.

Final Note: With a dreamlike quality, a complex relationship between two male leads, and a crime story, The American Friend is recommended for True Detective fans who need some cinematic methadone.

Rating: 9/10

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