From its engagement with genre tropes (particularly film noir), to its tangibly grimy urban backdrops, to its archetypal hero/villain dramatic dichotomy, there’s no mistaking the film’s American influence.
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The film has a fine grasp of tenuous emotional connections in the midst of a crumbling moral universe. Wenders's films (Kings of the Road, Alice in the Cities) are about life on the edge; this is one of his edgiest.
An absorbing but rarefied, introspective variation on traditional thriller motifs, it's probably not the synthesis between the personal and traditional that Wenders needs but it's a fascinating compulsively watchable experiment.
Like Taxi Driver, The American Friend was a new sort of movie-movie — sleekly brooding, voluptuously alienated and saturated with cinephilia.
Adapting Ripley's Game, the third of Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels, 1977's The American Friend knits Wenders' ongoing concerns into a thriller in the Hitchcock mold.
Bruno Ganz is excellent as the victim deceived into committing murder.
This is a Wenders masterwork--a chilling tale of painting, crime and forgery. [19 Jan 2007, p.C5]
Wenders' unsettling compositions are neurotically beautiful visions of a disordered world, but the film doesn't have the nasty, pleasurable cleverness of a good thriller; dramatically, it's stagnant -- inverted Wagnerism.
There's something cheerfully perverse about filming a thriller and then tossing out the parts that would help it make sense, but Wim Wenders has a certain success with the method in The American Friend.