Kings of the Road (Wim Wenders / West Germany, 1976):
(Im Lauf der Zeit)

"In the course of time" and in the thrall of landscape, the consummate Wim Wenders meander. A scanning pan gives a comprehensive view of the flat Lüneburg countryside, it might be a Brett Weston picture but for the Volkswagen zipping on the edge of the pale, dusty screen. Rebel Without a Cause's chickie-run is transposed into a most sheepish kamikaze drive, just the deadpan shrug to bring together the shaggy mechanic-projectionist (Rüdiger Vogler) and the pensive pediatrician (Hanns Zischler) by the river's edge. Off in the "traveling museum" the two go, one ghost town after another along the West-East border. "How do you cope with being alone?" "I get by." Railroads, gas stations, refineries line the barren way, then the dilapidated kino where no one cares the porno playing is badly framed. (Lang der Vater is a pinned photograph, Faulkner rests on the nightstand.) Dead of night with the existential husband in his bloodied coat (Marquard Bohm), reunion with the patriarch (Rudolf Schündler) in the dormant printing room, quasi-flirtation with the doleful box-office clerk (Lisa Kreuzer). "Abstract repetitions, processes, paths... Dreaming is a form of writing in circles." Widescreen 35mm, eleven weeks of improvisation, slide guitar motifs for this record of a film being made under the big sky, a seeker's metaphysical terrain. Wenders opens and closes on ruminating theater owners (one's a former Nazi who recalls the fine orchestral accompaniment Die Nibelungen was given), in between he contemplates the spectrum of masculine monotony pierced by the occasional epiphany. (You gotta get into the action, as Keaton in Sherlock Jr. would have it, there's the death of cinema and there's the roomful of restless children suddenly rapt before a slapstick shadow play.) The broken-down family home on the Rhine, American song lyrics traded like koans, English scrawls like hieroglyphs in the roadside bunker: "The Americans have colonized our subconscious." Hellman (Two-Lane Blacktop) and Schatzberg (Scarecrow) have the more eventful rambles, Wenders meanwhile keeps following the "man of means by no means" toward the Texan desert. Cinematography by Robby Müller and Martin Schäfer. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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