Chance encounters that often seem purposeless may, upon reflection, turn out to be life changing experiences. Such is the case for German photographer Philip Winter (Rudiger Vogler) in Wim Wenders 1974 film Alice in the Cities, the first of three Wenders road pictures (Wrong Move, Kings of the Road). Traveling through the East Coast of America, Winter is overcome by lethargy and the monotony of the American landscape with its relentless vistas of billboards, chain motels, and fast food restaurants and has little interaction with his surroundings other than to take pictures as a detached observer. At one motel stop, he becomes so infuriated with commercials on television that he destroys the television set. Blocked in his attempt to write an article describing his journey, he decides to return to Germany but finds that the flights are delayed for a day. At the airport, he strikes up a conversation with a German woman (Lisa Kreuzer) and her nine-year old daughter Alice (Yella Rottländer) also trying to return home. The three share a hotel room and things seem routine until the mother inexplicably departs, leaving a note telling Winter to bring Alice to Amsterdam where she will meet them. The mother, however, does not arrive and Winter is left to care for Alice until relatives can be located. Their relationship, at first filled with resentment, gradually develops into one of trust as they drive together in a rented car trying to locate Alice's grandmother in Wuppertal and the cities of the Ruhr. Alice in the Cities is a sensitive and thoughtful film that suggests that everything in life has a purpose and that guidance is available if we remain open. The film mixes humor and pathos as the reluctant friends must contend with loneliness and alienation, themes often prevalent in Wenders' films. Rottländer's performance as Alice strikes just the right note. She is believable as the bright, feisty, and often charming little girl and her performance never crosses the line into sentimentality. As Winter slowly begins to see the time with her as an opportunity to embrace rather than as an obstacle to overcome, he finds that being responsible for another person can be transforming and that his quest is not so much for Alice's grandmother as for his own self.
Alice in the Cities
Alice in the Cities
A German journalist is saddled with a nine-year-old girl after encountering her mother at a New York airport.
December 12, 2020