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Alice in the Cities (1974)

Alice in den Städten (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | 17 May 1974 (West Germany)
A German journalist is saddled with a nine-year-old girl after encountering her mother at a New York airport.


Wim Wenders


Wim Wenders, Veith von Fürstenberg (contributing writer)

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Complete credited cast:
Rüdiger Vogler ... Philip 'Phil' Winter
Yella Rottländer ... Alice
Lisa Kreuzer ... Lisa - Alice's Mother (as Elisabeth Kreuzer)
Edda Köchl Edda Köchl ... Angela - Friend in New York
Ernest Boehm Ernest Boehm ... Publisher
Sam Presti Sam Presti ... Car Dealer
Lois Moran ... Airport Hostess
Didi Petrikat Didi Petrikat ... Friend in Frankfurt
Hans Hirschmüller ... Police Officer
Sibylle Baier Sibylle Baier ... The Woman
Mirko Mirko


German journalist Philip Winter has a case of writer's block when trying to write an article about the United States. He decides to return to Germany, and while trying to book a flight, encounters a German woman and her nine year old daughter Alice doing the same. The three become friends (almost out of necessity) and while the mother asks Winter to mind Alice temporarily, it quickly becomes apparent that Alice will be his responsibility for longer than he expected. After returning to Europe, the innocent friendship between Winter and Alice grows as they travel together through various European cities on a quest for Alice's grandmother. Written by Karl Engel <cassiel@ix.netcom.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis




Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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West Germany


German | English | Dutch

Release Date:

17 May 1974 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

Alice in the Cities See more »

Filming Locations:

Germany See more »


Box Office


DEM 500,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


Wim Wenders had recently completed a very troubled production of The Scarlet Letter (1973). The only aspect of that film that he derived any enjoyment from was one small scene between Rüdiger Vogler and 'Yella Rottlander', something he was keen to recreate. See more »


The concert scene of Chuck Berry (which was originally shot by D.A. Pennebaker) showing the singer holding the guitar as a left-handed, but later as right-handed. See more »


Alice: Do you think he's my father?
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Referenced in Wanderlust (2006) See more »


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User Reviews

a nostrum for wanderlust cineastes
25 July 2016 | by lasttimeisawSee all my reviews

Wim Wenders' fourth feature, ALICE IS THE CITIES heralds a seminal change in his career, the first film of his road film trilogy (follows by WRONG MOVE 1975 and KING OF THE ROAD 1976, all three are starring Rüdiger Vogler), which designates Wenders's definitively poetic and nihilistic trait in his future feature film-making, and would reach its apex in Paris, Texas (1984) and WINGS OF DESIRE (1987).

Philip Winter (Vogler), a German journalist drives in rural America like a lone wolf, takes pictures from his Polaroid camera, checks in dingy motel rooms, chafes at soul-destroying TV shows and radio programs remitting their diet of pap non-stop, where is his destination? Soon after, Philip arrives in New York, audience then has been informed that he has been assigned to write an article about the United States four weeks ago, but he has been struck by writer's block and is unable to produce any texts, except for a stack of Polaroid snapshots. Running out of money, Philip decides to go back to West Germany with a one-way ticket, in the booking counter, he chances upon a German woman Lisa (Kreuzer, Wenders' second wife) and her 10-year-old daughter Alice (Rottländer), Lisa also wants to leave for Germany as soon as possible but is hampered by language barrier.

Being a Good Samaritan, Philip book three tickets to Amsterdam the next afternoon (being the nearest flight possible), finds the mother-daughter a hotel room to stay, where he soon joins them after being rejected by his New York friend Angela (Köchl, Wenders' first wife) to stay overnight, who acerbically pinpoints Philip's problem: he takes pictures to reproduce what he sees, but forever discombobulated by the inutility of the transmutation, he can feel no attachment to the world.

Lisa confesses to Philip that she has just undergone a breakup and invites Philip to sleep in the same bed with the proviso that sex is off the table, the next day, Lisa leaves Alice in Philip's care and fails to take the flight with them, but gives her word that she will meet them in Amsterdam the next day, a promise which she will also ultimately break. From then on, Philip is unwillingly saddled with an odd travel companion, Alice, an unadulterated force of childish simplicity and bluntness, from New York, to Amsterdam, then to West Germany, where they try to locate the house of Alice's grandmother, whose name eludes the ten-year-older. From public transportation to roaming together in a rented car, in hotels or bedding down at a stranger's home, the mismatched pair forms a tactile but uncharacteristic bond. The entire film strikes one as disarmingly detached, even in the narrative-wise turning points, e.g. Alice runs off from the police station and reunites with Philip, or Alice admits that she has been lying about where her grandmother lives in the first place, Wenders refuses to leave any traces of emotional manipulation, as a reward for dedicative audience, these scenes stamp an indelible mark for incorporating authenticity into acting.

Meanwhile, Philip starts to scribble on his notes with thoughts pouring in during his journey with Alice, although at first he deems her as a nuisance and a liability, but there is no denying that Alice's presence does bring a whiff of freshness in his negative disposition and passive existence, it forces him to move about, to make up his mind, to communicate and to reconnect with the world which he seems to forfeit, and in return, he insouciantly bears with a surrogate father figure, makes ascertain Alice will return to her mother in safe hands.

As a dialogue-sparse existential essay, ALICE IN THE CITIES has an amazingly meditative and minimal soundtrack cooked up by the krautrock band CAN, although the Black-and-White standard is rudimentarily grainy and sometimes looks grotty, it suffices to say, just as the fact that there is no negative for Polaroid, Wenders' body of work is also a brand of his own uniqueness, imitated by future directors but can never be superseded - as a nostrum for wanderlust cineastes,

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