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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.

Director:

Wim Wenders

Writers:

Wim Wenders, Veith von Fürstenberg (contributing writer)
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Cast

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
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Storyline

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

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

West Germany

Language:

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 »

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Box Office

Budget:

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

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The section of Chuck Berry playing in the concert was actually shot by documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker at Toronto in 1969. Wenders himself had shot the footage of Chuck Berry playing live in Frankfurt in the 70s, but could not afford the hefty copyright cost to use it in the film. Pennebaker provided Wenders the clip of '69 with much reasonable fee, but Wenders and his team had to transferred it into B&W to match the rest of the film. Pennebaker was not credited at the end of the film, and interestingly, his own 1969 Toronto concert film of Chuck Berry did not include the song (Memphis, Tennessee) which was used in Wender's film. See more »

Goofs

At 59:17 when Alice is coming out of the toilet, the door handle in the close-up is reverse (l-r) compared with the next shot when she opens the door. See more »

Quotes

Lisa - Alice's Mother: What are you writing?
Philip 'Phil' Winter: The inhuman thing about American TV is not so much that they hack everything up with commercials, though that's bad enough, but in the end all programmes become commercials. Commercials for the status quo. Every image radiates the same disgusting and nauseated message. A kind of boastful contempt. Not one image leaves you in peace, they all want something from you.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Wanderlust (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

Psychotic Reaction
Written by Craig Atkinson, Sean Byrne (as John Byrne), Roy Chaney, Ken Ellner and John Michalski
Performed by Count Five
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Tender, restrained, elegiac road film about unexpected meaning...
7 October 2012 | by secondtakeSee all my reviews

Alice in the Cities (1974)

If there are movies, like comedies and horror films, that are better seen in a crowd, there are some movies that might be best seen alone. This is one of them, and I didn't realize until I was almost done because it had become so absorbing I was really enjoying my isolation within the movie.

The plot is simple, and I won't say how it happens, but a nine year old Dutch-German girl is left with a German man in the United States, and he takes care of her as they search for a way to find her mother or grandmother. Their first step is to fly back to Amsterdam, and then in Germany in a little car they poke around looking for her home.

It's a road movie, though unlike any other. The two main characters are about as perfect and as natural as it gets. The man is a thoughtful, drifting writer and photographer, an artist in the counter-culture way of the times. He has no real ambition, but observes the world with poetic appreciation. So when this girl is made part of his life, he takes it in stride. That's key to the mood of the film, that this very unlikely situation can continue for so long because he just goes with the flow. There is no running to the police, no panic. But there is no sense either that this is an accepted new relationship. It's for the moment, but the end of the moment is continually deferred.

The girl goes with the flow as well, and is as brilliant as the man at being natural in front of the camera, often doing nothing. She's made to be lovable, of course, but not in any coy or sentimental way. (If this were a Hollywood film we'd all be barfing by now.) All of this matters because it isn't what's happening that really matters, but it's just being together, the two of them, and then (you realize) the three of you. You wish it was you who was doing this utterly humane, deeply felt act of traveling and being supportive and seeing modern (1973) Germany.

The filming is simple black and white but brilliantly effective, down to the heart wrenching last shot (which was probably the most expensive). The setting is actually a surprise in that you never think of the ordinary middle class and industrial parts of middle Europe being so interesting. The music comes and goes, and refers to the earthy music of the time, mostly American blues based stuff.

In a little way this reminded me of "Stranger than Paradise" and when I connected the two I saw how much Jarmusch (in that film) owed to these art film experiments just a few years earlier. And now that I think of it, this one is more touching and important even if "Stranger than Paradise" is more inventive. "Alice in the Cities" makes a case for a kind of film we don't see being made now, and which might have another vogue one of these years in reaction to the general highly refined, highly artificial worlds of most movies today. I hope so.


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