Alice in the Cities. 1974. USA/West Germany. Directed by Wim Wenders. In German; English subtitles. 112 min.
Screenplay by Wim Wenders, Veith von Fürstenberg. With Rüdiger Vogler, Yella Rottländer, Lisa Kreuzer. A signal achievement of Das Neue Kino (New German Cinema), Alice in the Cities was the first in Wenders’s so-called “road movie trilogy,” together with Wrong Move (1975) and Kings of the Road (1976); and as a touching portrait of longing and loss, the film also anticipates Paris, Texas, which he made a decade later. Philip Winter, an aspiring journalist, is assigned to write a story about the American landscape for a German newspaper. Much to the chagrin of his editor, he has only a box of Polaroids to show for his travels. While held over in a New York airport he befriends a woman, likewise stranded, who suddenly entrusts him with her young daughter: the petulant, eponymous Alice. When it becomes clear that the mother won’t be joining them in Amsterdam as planned, the pair wend their way across various German cities in search of a grandmother whom Alice only vaguely remembers. The rapport they develop is charming and keenly observed, but the film also speaks profoundly to themes that have prevailed throughout Wenders’s career: the Americanization of Europe and, conversely, the peculiar blend of fascination and alienation felt by a European in the United States. “When you drive through America,” Philip observes, “something happens to you. The images you see change you.” New digital restoration.