Double Bill

ALICE IN THE CITIES DIR. WIM WENDERS (1974) LONE STAR DIR. JOHN SAYLES (1996); Sue Clayton, Director of `The Disappearance of Finbar', October 23 on her ideal cinematic pairing
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The Independent Culture
WHEN I first saw Alice In The Cities I couldn't believe this black-and-white film. It has incredibly haunting images with almost no dialogue. For the first time I realised it was possible to make films that weren't just talking heads, but also moving trains, sky, buildings or a little kid looking lost.

Lone Star is more bright and it has a sense of place. Alice is about loneliness, travelling in order to come back from the edge.

Alice begins with a reporter who is having trouble with a story. He starts to take Polaroids of American television, billboards and shop signs. He has had enough of words. His editor sacks him and at the airport he meets a mother who then disappears and leaves him with her feisty, nine-year- old daughter, called Alice. They go on a fantastic journey through Holland and Germany, to look for Alice's grandmother.

Lone Star is an investigative story. A sheriff wants to find out why his father was killed and whether it was because of a murder that happened 30 years ago. It's set in a small town in the Texan desert and all the townspeople are incriminated. All their secrets, feuds and love-affairs open up the town to show an interesting world.

Some critics say Alice is an Alice-through-the-looking-glass metaphor about travel to lonely places and the world spinning around you.

I would show Alice first, because it reveals how miraculous, yet complex, the world is. Then I would need the humanity of Lone Star to warm myself. Despite its viciousness, I have great respect and love for its characters.

The films are also opposites in style. Alice is black-and-white and very composed; I would like to put every shot on my walls. Lone Star, by contrast, is quite free and spontaneous. Lone Star uses saturated colour - the desert is dense and the sky, blue. It is visceral, almost as if everyone in the small town is connected by blood and sand. One film is pared down and the other is rich and full of humanity.

I think all the best films deal with change. The visual journey in Alice represents this; the reporter and Alice are on a journey of discovery. When you go out after watching this film, even the grotty Northern Line has its moments. To start with the landscape and soundtrack, before the story came in, was groundbreaking.

In Lone Star morality is questioned in an interesting way. You think about whose side you are on and even sympathise with characters who condoned the murder. In the end you don't care about the traditional "whodunnit"; you care more about how the Mexicans in the film got on with whites, or girls, how they didn't get an education, and the atmosphere of a town in the Fifties. It's a seething community, but funny, warm and sexy. One shows the extremes of community; the other is a dream trip that bypasses community.

Interview by Jennifer Rodger

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