The American Friend
Facts and Figures
Run time: 125 mins
In Theaters: Friday 24th June 1977
Distributed by: New Yorker Films
Production compaines: Bavaria Film, Filmverlag der Autoren, Les Films du Losange, Road Movies Filmproduktion GmbH, Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), Wim Wenders Productions
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Fresh: 14 Rotten: 2
IMDB: 7.4 / 10
The American Friend Review
On the other hand, the book stands on its own fairly well, namely because it doesn't have an awful lot to do with Ripley himself. As the story goes: We find Ripley (played by a cowboy hat-toting Dennis Hopper) later in life, working a career in art sales/forgery. He makes the acquaintance of a dying picture framer named Zimmermann (Bruno Ganz - dig the 'stache!), and eventually coerces him (through asssociates) into performing a contract murder for a large sum of money, meant to set up his family after his death.
Naturally, complications arise.
Directed by Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire), The American Friend is as deliberate as The Talented Mr. Ripley is frenetic. It's a much different pace than you'd expect from this kind of material but which Wenders knows all too well. The film ends up as a set piece for Ganz, with Hopper playing a considerably smaller role than you'd expect. Wenders just never generates the desperation Zimmermann needs to make this story work. The result is a slow burn that slowly peters out instead of grows into a bonfire.
The cinematography is both bleak and pretty -- bouncing between Paris and postwar Germany. The editing is appropriate, though it lets the scenes drag on too long. Watch for directors Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause) and Samuel Fuller (Shock Corridor) in small roles.
Newly released on DVD, Wenders and Hopper add a commentary track, plus the disc adds over half an hour of deleted scenes (with optional commentary as well), all run together and, interestingly, set to the movie's thriller-ish theme music. It's almost a mini-film of test shots and side stories that sort of stands on its own.
Aka Der Amerikanische Freund.