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The American Friend (1977)

Der amerikanische Freund (original title)
Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Mystery | 28 September 1977 (France)
3:20 | Trailer

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Tom Ripley, who deals in forged art, suggests a picture framer he knows would make a good hit man.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
... Tom Ripley
... Jonathan Zimmermann
... Marianne Zimmermann
... Raoul Minot
... Derwatt
... Der Amerikaner
Peter Lilienthal ... Marcangelo
... Igraham
Sandy Whitelaw ... Arzt in Paris
... Freundlicher Mann
... Rodolphe
Andreas Dedecke ... Daniel
David Blue ... Allan Winter
Stefan Lennert ... Auktionator
... Gantner


Tom Ripley has a sweet deal with an art forger. The forger creates the paintings; Tom sells them. But another criminal business associate wants Tom to go in for an even riskier enterprise: murder. Tom suggests his associate ask a local picture framer instead. That man has a fatal disease, or so it's rumored. More, he has a wife and kid that surely he wouldn't want to leave penniless. Let this picture framer be a hit man, and no one will suspect. The terminally ill craftsman may agree to the misdeed, and several more, but he'll end up needing Tom Ripley in a pinch. Written by J. Spurlin

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Release Date:

28 September 1977 (France)  »

Also Known As:

The American Friend  »

Filming Locations:



Box Office


DEM 3,000,000 (estimated)
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Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


Though primarily based on the Patricia Highsmith novel "Ripley's Game," the film also uses elements, uncredited, of "Ripley Under Ground," which was later adapted to film in 2005 as Ripley Under Ground (2005). Specifically, Ripley's involvement in an art forgery scheme, and the Derwatt character. In the film, Derwatt has seemingly faked his own death and "forges" his own paintings, which Ripley then sells. In "Ripley Under Ground," Derwatt dies before the story begins, and Ripley and his accomplices conspire to trick the public into thinking he's still alive while a Derwatt admirer forges new paintings in his name. See more »


[first lines]
Derwatt: Who is it?
Tom Ripley: It's Ripley.
Derwatt: The door is open.
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Crazy Credits

The acting credits are divided into: the four leads, the rest of the cast, and the six directors who make guest appearances ("Als Gäste die Regisseure"). See more »


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User Reviews

The beginning of violence
17 December 2007 | by See all my reviews

Let's start with the good news: Bruno Ganz, in the part of a tragic hero tricked into felony, will make it worth your while. But pretty much everything else about "The American Friend" will please only the most dedicated followers of art-house director Wim Wenders. Although this is one of his earliest feature-length movies, it is already riddled with his trademark allusions to the history and theory of moving images, ranging from a Zoetrope toy and ubiquitous surveillance cameras to the lead character putting himself "in frame" by hanging a picture frame around his neck. Against the backdrop of Hamburg's grimy port, Wenders indulges his obsession with American culture in the guise of Dennis Hopper. Posing as a fake cowboy, he feeds fake American paintings back to the American market by way of a German auction house. The final third of the story, from the moment Zimmermann gets on the train, is completely incomprehensible without prior knowledge of the book it is based on, "Ripley's Game". What little action we see is awfully shot; most of the time, it's slow-moving people mumbling lines from Bob Dylan songs as they go about their somber business in a parallel universe heavy with misery and meaning. What we need is filmmakers who care less about movies and more about life.

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