The American Friend (1977)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama, Post-Noir (Modern Noir)  |   Run Time - 127 min.  |   Countries - Germany , France   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Michael Costello

Wenders homage to the American noir includes cameos by two of the genre's most significant figures, Nicholas Ray and Sam Fuller, and stars actor and director Dennis Hopper, whose life and career perhaps most perfectly embody the idiom's celebration of self-destruction. The doppelgänger motif, which threads through Highsmith's work, perhaps most familiar from Hitchcock's version of Strangers on a Train (1951), is also the dominant metaphor of Wenders' film, but in keeping with the director's characteristic ambiguity, the difference between Ripley and his victim are less distinct and sharp-edged here, as the cold-blooded artmonger actually shows some compassion, and the upstanding Zimmerman displays a capacity for evil. Despite the linear plot, the film, like much of the director's work, is suffused with a sense of contingency and randomness, placing a scrim of philosophical detachment between the audience and the drama's doomed characters. Hopper, then in extremely ill health, gives one of the most touching, least flamboyant performances of his career, and Ganz is equally effective as the ailing, anxious artisan.