The American Friend (1978)

Wim Wenders directs Bruno Ganz, Dennis Hopper and Lisa Kreuzer in this adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novel, where the deadly manipulator entangles a picture framer into the business of assassination.

One of the very first Neo-Noirs, this is more interested in mood than thrills, location than character. To say the performances are fluid is an understatement. The leads both act aqainst their own interests, and in contrast to their established natures, with alarming results. It is hard to tally Hopper’s shifting interpretations of Ripley with each new scene… he flows from vengeful schemer to genial persuader to altruistic bodyguard to wild besieged prey. Maybe Wender’s (and Highsmith’s) point is if you take a man out of his natural habitat he changes, loses his ethics to the new environment… Sadsack mark Bruno Ganz might not make the most effective stalking hunter on the Paris Metro but he surprises himself and us by going along with the high crime. And that’s just on one trip away from home. Ripley has been without tether or anchor for years. He’s like Dracula in his mansion… alone… waiting for tragedy to arrive on the horizon. Hopper is far less controlled and subtle than other big screen Tom Ripley’s but no less seductive and complex. While it idles frustratingly as a genre piece, it is satisfyingly off kilter as a piece of filmmaking.

6

My Top 10 Neo-Noirs

1. True Romance (1993)
2. Leon (1994)
3. Pulp Fiction (1994)
4. No Country For Old Men (2007)
5. Shallow Grave (1994)

6. Mystic River (2003)
7. Memento (2000)
8. The Usual Suspects (1995)
9. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
10. The Grifters (1990)

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