Thursday, December 21, 2006

Wim Wenders Collection, Vol. 2

Posted on Thu, Dec 21, 2006 at 4:00 AM

Wim Wenders Collection, Vol. 2
Studio: Anchor Bay
WorkNameSort: Wim Wenders Collection, Vol. 2

Aside from Jean-Luc Godard, I can't think of another filmmaker as obsessed with chronicling film itself as Wim Wenders. The cinema ' as an art, entertainment and business ' and its makers form the fabric of so many of the German director's works, from Lightning Over Water to The State of Things, Lisbon Story to The End of Violence.

The Wim Wenders Collection Vol. 2 amasses three of his most obscure musings on his medium (Room 666, Tokyo-Ga and A Trick of the Light), plus two key early fiction works (The Scarlet Letter and Wrong Move), adding them to the previously released Lightning Over Water, American Friend and Notebook on Cities and Clothes for a 700-minute box set of largely neglected work.

Long in gestation ' the commentaries, the discs' only supplements, date back to 2002 ' the collection is something of a disappointment given how long Wenders fans have waited, and given that early classics like Alice in the Cities, Kings of the Road and The State of Things weren't included, but still languish in the moribund VHS netherworld.

Still, the three movies-about-movies are some of the finest of their kind. In the fascinating time capsule Room 666, Wenders sets up a 16mm camera and tape recorder in the only vacant room in a hotel in Cannes during the 1982 festival (the room is always available for obvious reasons, as Wenders suggests in the commentary). Fifteen filmmakers enter the room one at a time, press play on the camera and recorder, and answer a written question by Wenders: What is the future of cinema? Godard, Steven Spielberg, Rainer Werner Fassbinder (just three weeks before his death), Michelangelo Antonioni and others give rambling or curt responses indicative of their own personalities as to value of the subject, which, given the continuing decline of art-house theaters and the proliferation of downloadable movies and limitless cable TV options, is unfortunately prophetic.

In the video diary Tokyo-Ga, Wenders travels to Tokyo in search of the legacy of his favorite filmmaker, Yasujiro Ozu, 20 years after the master's death. He finds a pulsating, Westernized city closer to the neon-washed bustle of Wong Kar-Wai's Hong Kong than the Tokyo of Ozu's humanist domestic dramas. But he immerses himself like an ethnographer discovering a culture, finding solace in members of Ozu's cast and crew who are still alive.

Finally, the whimsical Trick of the Light is an idiosyncratic mash-up of silent film and documentary, recreating the stunted efforts of Germany's earliest film pioneers, the Skladanowsky brothers, to invent the first cinematic apparatus. Reminiscent of the silent film-obsessed Guy Maddin, it's the most technically audacious but least significant movie in the bunch.

The meandering existentialist drama Wrong Move and a surprisingly conventional retelling of The Scarlet Letter round out the new-to-DVD material, both made modern by their use of music, a trademark Wenders would perfect as the years progressed.

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