The American Friend. 1977. West Germany/France. Directed by Wim Wenders. 126 min.
Screenplay by Wim Wenders, based on the novel Ripley’s Game by Patricia Highsmith. With Dennis Hopper, Bruno Ganz, Samuel Fuller, Lisa Kreuzer, Nicholas Ray, Gérard Blain, Lou Castel. The misanthropic thrillers of Patricia Highsmith have proven irresistible to Hitchcock, Chabrol, Clément, Minghella, and a great many other filmmakers. Wenders’s own take on _Ripley’s Game_—presented in a stunning new 4K digital restoration—is among the best of these adaptations, finding complexity, and even a hint of compassion, in Highsmith’s favorite gambit of the shifty but sensitive con man who lures an innocent into a life of crime. Jonathan Zimmerman (Ganz), a mild-mannered picture framer who suffers from a fatal blood disease, crosses paths with Tom Ripley (Hopper), a “cowboy in Hamburg” who trafficks in forged artworks. Drawn into an underworld of shady gangsters (played by the hard-boiled filmmakers Sam Fuller, Nick Ray, and Gérard Blain), Zimmerman is tempted to commit murder for a sum of money that would ensure the welfare of his wife and child after his death. Wenders creates a moody sense of longing and betrayal, quoting from Edward Hopper paintings and the lyrics of Bob Dylan, The Kinks, and The Beatles; his unexpectedly affecting thriller— about how little we know of our lovers, our friends, and ourselves—even made a convert of Highsmith, who told the director that it captured the spirit of Ripley better than any other cinematic treatment of her signature antihero. New digital restoration.