Alice in the Cities (1974)

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Alice in the Cities (German: Alice in den Städten) is a 1974 German road movie directed by Wim Wenders. This was the first part of Wenders’ “Road Movie Trilogy” which included The Wrong Move (1975) and Kings of the Road (1976). The film is shot in black and white by Robby Müller with several long scenes without dialogue. The film’s theme closely foreshadows Wenders’ later film Paris, Texas.

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Plot

German writer Philip Winter has missed his publisher’s deadline for writing an article about the United States. He decides to return to Germany, and encounters a German woman, Lisa, and her daughter, Alice, who are both doing the same thing. After Lisa leaves Alice temporarily in Phil’s care, it quickly becomes apparent that he will have to look after her for longer than he expected.[1] Phil finds himself stuck with Alice, searching various cities of Germany for her grandmother, whose name and address Alice cannot remember. The only clue they have is a photograph of her grandmother’s front door with no house number and no one in the shot.

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Cast

  • Rüdiger Vogler as Phil Winter
  • Yella Rottländer as Alice
  • Lisa Kreuzer as Alice’s Mother
  • Sibylle Baier as The Woman

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Production

The scenario of a young girl and a writer thrown together was inspired by his long-time collaborator Peter Handke’s experience as a single parent.[2] The influence of Handke’s 1972 novel Short Letter, Long Farewell, also featuring an alienated German-speaker travelling across the United States, can be inferred from the film’s use of clips from John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln, itself heavily referenced in the novel. The film can be seen as a response to Handke’s novel.[3]

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Critical reception

Philip French of the Observer calls Rottländer’s performance as Alice “unforgettable”. He goes on to say that the movie would not be able to be made today “partly because of the invention of the mobile phone, partly because of our obsessive fear of anything that might be interpreted as paedophilia.”[4] Nora Sayre and Lawrence Van Gelder of the New York Times say that it is “a film with a great deal to say about Europe and America, about the exhaustion of dreams and the homogenization of nations, about roots and the awareness of time, about sterility and creativity, about vicarious and real adventure and, eventually, about the possibilities of the future.”[5]

Scoring

The film was scored by the German band Can. When interviewed about the experience, Can’s Irmin Schmidt stated that it was recorded by Schmidt, Michael Karoli and Jaki Liebezeit and that they were not able to see the movie before recording the music. Instead, they went through a collaborative approach with Wenders, who was very short on time. It was all done in one day.[6]

References

  1. Alice in the Cities at the Internet Movie Database
  2. King of the Road by Chris Petit in the Guardian Saturday January 5, 2008
  3. Brady, Martin; Leal, Joanne (2011). Wim Wenders and Peter Handke: Collaboration, Adaptation, Recomposition. Amsterdam: Editions Ropodi. pp. 169–170. ISBN 978-90-420-3248-4.
  4. French, Philip (5 January 2008). “Alice in the Cities”. The Observer. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
  5. “Alice in the Cities (1974)”. The New York Times. 9 October 1974. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
  6. “An Interview with CAN’s Irmin Schmidt”. Screen Slate. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
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