Review: The American Friend

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The American Friend or Der amerikanische Freund is a neo noir from 1977 by director Wim Wenders. Wenders wanted to do a film based on a Patricia Highsmith book. His first choice was The Cry of the Owl, but when the rights to that book were already taken, Highsmith offered him Ripley’s Game, a new Ripley book that was not published yet.

I still have not read a Highsmith book, I know, I know…I hope to soon. I do have to say I don’t get the Ripley character at all in the films I have seen. I have seen Purple Noon, which I found interesting, and my favorite film with the character, it is also the first one. I need to re-watch Ripley’s Game and The Talented Mr. Ripley because it has been over a decade since I have seen them, but remember being underwhelmed by them when I originally saw them.

I was really looking forward to seeing American Friend after reading all the great reviews and seeing it is highly rated by most. If you can’t already tell I was not a huge fan of this film. I will not say it is a bad film, it has a lot going for it, I guess my expectations going in may have been to high.

Dennis Hopper is good and has a very unique take on the Ripley character and Bruno Ganz is very good as the innocent man that gets sucked into Ripley’s world.

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The story starts out with Ripley having a dead artist, who isn’t really dead, paint new pictures which Ripley sells at auction. Jonathan(Bruno Ganz), is a framer who thinks something is a miss with these paintings. Ripley takes offense to this and goes into a scheme to convince Jonathan he is dying and should take an assassination job to make money for his family before he dies.

There is a lot of cool things going on in this film, like a number of great directors playing criminals throughout the movie. The locations are interesting and fun to see. I liked Ganz’s internal battle on what he should do. I didn’t get Ripley’s choices all the time, and I don’t think Ripley thought out a lot of what he does, maybe he is too much of a real psychopath and isn’t supposed to make sense all the time. I wanted to know more about why these hits on the mafia were happening. How did Ripley and his partners find out about these hits?

This maybe one of those films that are better on a second or third viewing, or after you read the books it is based on. I think fans of the Ripley character will enjoy this film. Like I said this is not a bad film and worth a viewing, but I did not find it as good as I had hoped it would be.

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Francine Prose wrote a great review of this film and obviously loved it much more then I did. After reading this review, I would like to go back and re-watch it and hope I find it more entertaining then the first time.

https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/3866-the-american-friend-little-lies-and-big-disasters

 

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