of Wim Wender’s Alice in den Städten (Alice in the Cities) .
Ticket Information: $9.50 at the door
• Discounted drinks available after the screening at Més Que with your ticket. •
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courtesy of Janus Films:
Technically, Alice in the Cities is Wenders’s fourth film, but he often refers to it as his first, because it was during this film that he discovered the genre of the road movie. (It would later become the first part of his road movie trilogy, along with Wrong Move and Kings of the Road.) It was also his first film to be shot partly in the U.S. and the first to feature his alter ego, Philip Winter (Rüdiger Vogler). Alice is often compared with Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid. In 1974, it won the German Critics Prize.
The German journalist Winter wants to write a story about America but is unable to accomplish anything but a series of Polaroids before disappointedly beginning his journey back home. At the same time, he reluctantly agrees to take little Alice (Yella Rottländer) with him, because her mother (Lisa Kreuzer)—whom he meets in New York on the day before his departure—has urgent business to take care of there. In Amsterdam, the mother then fails to appear as they agreed, so Winter and Alice set out to try to find Alice’s grandmother in the Ruhr region. During their search together, their initial mutual dislike gradually transforms into a heartfelt affection.
4K scan and 2K restoration, 2014 • 2K DCP
For decades, some of Wenders’s films either remained unavailable because of unresolved rights clearances or could be seen only in poor quality due to damage to the materials. The foundation began to digitally restore them in 2014, and, as a result, the public is today once again able to experience these films in optimal quality. Restoring Wenders’s body of work represents one of the central missions and greatest challenges of the Wim Wenders Stiftung.
As a first step, the original film materials are brought together from various storage facilities and documented. The production documents are examined and analyzed with regard to the legal situation. In addition, an archiving concept with a classification scheme for the inventory and processing of both film and documentary materials is being developed. The restoration work itself consists of several stages: the evaluation of all source material, the scanning of the analog material, the retouching of individual frames from damaged film sequences by hand and the stabilization of individual frames, and the reframing and color correction of the image. The sound was already processed digitally back in 2002 by André Bendocchi-Alves. After completion of the restoration work, the source materials are then transferred to the German Federal Film Archive for proper long-term storage. It almost goes without saying that a change of medium from analog to digital will rarely pass unnoticed. For this reason, particular attention is paid to maintaining the visual “charm” of the originally analog film images with the idiosyncrasies of the film grain. Whereas the reprocessing of classic films is typically supervised and assessed by curators and archivists in order to make careful decisions for a restoration “in the sense of the director’s original vision,” the Wim Wenders Stiftung situation provides one special advantage: the director himself is involved in the restoration process, thus guaranteeing a processing of the films that is far from an outside interpretation.
The Wim Wenders Stiftung digitally restored eight films in the course of one year. Image processing was done by the company ARRI Film & TV under the supervision of Wim and Donata Wenders and was supported by grants from the German Federal Film Board (FFA) and the Centre national de la cinématographie (CNC). Further films were transferred to current state-of-the-art high-resolution digital formats in order to be able to show them in cinemas and on television. The foundation will continue to pursue the preservation of the cinematic work of Wenders and to thus make it accessible to the public on a permanent basis.
Alice in the Cities was shot on 16 mm black-and-white negative in the summer of 1973. For fifteen years, all copies in circulation worldwide were made from the original negative. By the time a 35 mm duplicate negative was finally made in 1988, the original material was damaged by countless scratches, vertical lines, and cracks.
The digital restoration of the film was done in 2014. For this purpose, the original negative was scanned in 4K resolution using the wet-gate method and retouched and color-corrected in 2K resolution. Individual sequences that were too heavily damaged on the original 16 mm negative were replaced with sections from the 35 mm duplicate negative. Although the film was shot in the 1:1.37 format commissioned by the German public broadcasting entity WDR, Wenders and his cameraman, Robby Müller, composed the shots for the widescreen 1:1.66 format. At the director’s request, Alice in the Cities was also screened in cinemas that way. With this digital restoration, the film is now finally framed in Wenders’s preferred format.
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“Any movie that has that spirit and says things can be changed is worth making.”
Wim Wenders (born 1945) came to international prominence as one of the pioneers of the New German Cinema in the 1970s and is considered to be one of the most important figures in contemporary German film. In addition to his many prize-winning feature films, his work as a scriptwriter, director, producer, photographer, and author also encompasses an abundance of innovative documentary films, international photo exhibitions, and numerous monographs, film books, and prose collections. He lives and works in Berlin with his wife, Donata Wenders.
Wenders studied medicine and philosophy before moving to Paris in 1966 to study painting. Though ostensibly pursuing an apprenticeship in the studio of the graphic designer and engraver Johnny Friedlaender, he spent his afternoons and evenings in the Cinémathèque française. This “crash course in the history of film” would become the most important stage in his education, as Wenders soon began to think of film as an “extension of painting by other means.”
His career as a filmmaker began in 1967, when Wenders enrolled at the newly founded University of Television and Film Munich (HFF Munich). Parallel to his studies at the HFF, he also worked as a film critic from 1967 to 1970. At this point, he had already directed various short films. Upon graduating from the university in 1971, he, together with fifteen other directors and authors, founded the Filmverlag der Autoren, a distribution company for films by German auteurs, which organized the production, rights administration, and distribution of their own independent films.
After completing his debut feature out of film school, The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (1971), Wenders turned to shooting his road movie trilogy—Alice in the Cities (1974), Wrong Move (1975), and Kings of the Road (1976)—in which the protagonists try to come to terms with their rootlessness in postwar Germany, among other things. His international breakthrough came with The American Friend (1977). Since then, Wenders has continued to work both in Europe and the United States, as well as in Latin America and Asia, and has been honored with numerous awards at festivals around the world, including the Golden Lion in Venice for The State of Things (1982); the Palme d’Or and the British Film Academy Award for Paris, Texas (1984); the Director’s Prize in Cannes for Wings of Desire (1987); and the Silver Bear for The Million Dollar Hotel (2000) at the Berlin International Film Festival. His documentary films Buena Vista Social Club (1999), Pina (2011), and The Salt of the Earth (2014) were all nominated for Oscars. During the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival, Wenders was presented with the Honorary Golden Bear for his lifetime achievement. His most recent feature film, Every Thing Will Be Fine, was shown in the official program of the Berlinale out of competition in 2015.
In the fall of 2012, together with his wife, Donata, Wenders established the Wim Wenders Stiftung in Düsseldorf. The establishment of the foundation was deeply rooted in the intention to create a legally binding framework to bring together the cinematic, photographic, artistic, and literary life’s work of Wenders in his native country and to make it permanently accessible to the public worldwide. At the same time, the nonprofit foundation model serves to ensure that Wenders’s whole body of work may belong only to itself as endowment capital, and that it thus remains beyond the reach of any form of private self-interest. All proceeds from the licensing business are used to finance the central purpose of the foundation: the promotion of the arts and culture through the restoration, dissemination, and preservation of Wenders’s work on the one hand, and through the support of young talents in the field of innovative narrative cinema on the other.
Photo by Donata Wenders, 2004
Here is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:
10/23/15 – “We wrapped up our interview at 1pm. Afterwards, I walked across London for five hours in a daft tribute to Wenders. He’d told me that he didn’t know what a boardwalk was until he saw the one that he filmed in Alice. Places tell stories, he said. There’s a close link, as Herr Wenders knows better than any other filmmaker, between motion and emotion.” Mark Cousins, Prospect Magazine – link
10/28/15 – “Where Alice in the Cities stands apart is in its delicate balance between an appreciation and criticism of the factors that have shaped Wenders as a filmmaker – neither Wenders nor Winter can entirely ignore the instinctive allure of a country that appeals so much to the imagination and yet is the source of such frustration for both director and character. As polemic as it is poetic, Alice … also represents a filmmaker at his artistic peak, drawing together the stylistic elements that would become his most recognisable without sacrificing the virility and enthusiasm that set his work apart.” Owen Armstrong, Vertigo Magazine – link
11/2/15 – “For a film about national identity, Alice in the Cities is paradoxically fixated on disconnection from place. Philip Winter, the film’s key protagonist (Rüdiger Vogler, a Wim Wenders regular), is as much a foreigner in the United States and Amsterdam as he is in his own country. As he explores Germany’s Ruhr district with his 9-year-old companion (the eponymous Alice, played superbly by Yella Rottländer), it is as if Philip has carried America back with him; his homeland now replete with fast food, country music and Coca-Cola machines.” David Heslin, Senses of Cinema – link
11/8/15 – Mr. Wenders on what inspired Alice in the Cities – link