Tom Ripley, who deals in forged art, suggests a picture framer he knows would make a good hit man.Tom Ripley, who deals in forged art, suggests a picture framer he knows would make a good hit man.Tom Ripley, who deals in forged art, suggests a picture framer he knows would make a good hit man.
3 interesting things to keep in mind:
1. "The American Friend" is Wim Wenders' film adaptation of the novel "Ripley's Game" by one of his favorite writers, Patricia Highsmith. According to Wim, after he proudly showed the final print to her in a private screening, she hated it so much that she left without saying a word. This destroyed Wim. But months later, Patricia contacted him to say that she saw the film a 2nd time and LOVED it. Her initial negative reaction was due to her shock and confusion at the way the character "Ripley" was played, but on 2nd watching, she told Wim that Dennis Hopper's portrayal of Ripley was the best she'd ever seen. Which brings us to...
2. Dennis Hopper's portrayal of "Ripley". WOW!!! Just... WOW. In an incredibly complex, layered, formidable as well as lovable characterization, Dennis Hopper completely changes the book's Ripley into his own. Fresh off the set of Apocalypse Now, literally right out of the jungle and, as Wim mentions, "high on every drug created by man," Dennis Hopper entered the set of this film and proceeded to do whatever he wanted. It was fantastic, so Wim gave him free reign. So what you see here is Hopper's unique portrayal of what was originally a purely amoral villain. Instead we get a wonderfully magnetic, introspective, sensitive--and then back to calculatingly cold--character who is a real treat to watch. What makes it even better is his relationship (on screen as well as off-screen) with his co-star Bruno Ganz. Which brings us to...
3. Bruno Ganz's portrayal of "Jonathan". WOoooOOoOoOOoOWW! Swiss/German stage actor Bruno Ganz, in what he describes as his first real film credit, absolutely knocks it out of the park. And it's the dynamic between Ganz and Hopper that makes this film work. Ganz came to the set fully prepared with his lines memorized syllable-for-syllable as stage actors do. So it deeply TICKED HIM OFF when Hopper would go into his wild departures from script. This led to a knockdown dragout fistfight on set, upon which Wim shut down filming and told them to take it outside, which they did, for several hours awol, until coming back the next day stone drunk, arm-in-arm. This is exactly the sort of dynamic we have on screen. Ripley and Jonathan despise each other, and they love each other. Forced to work together toward a common goal, we watch their fantastic friendly-rivalry as events unfold. And if you believe the backstage stories, you'll understand how they achieved this rare balance. It's 100% real.
I'll just leave it there. I won't even go into the fantastic cinematography and lighting (the first time a major film was ever lit with fluorescent light, giving it a strangely surreal look), and I won't even go into the poetry and wonderful artistic elements characteristic of all Wim Wenders flicks. That's for you to look for and enjoy at your own pace. I just figured you might like the inside scoop on these 3 interesting things that helped make "The American Friend" the rare gem that it is.
- Sep 5, 2020