Alice in the Cities (U)

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The Independent Culture

This reissue from 1974 harks back to the promising early years of Wim Wenders' career, before his studies in modern alienation became ponderous and self-important. A German photographer, Philip Winter (Rudiger Vogler), kicks around the US, half-bored, half-intrigued by its endless highways and radio fuzz; on his way back to Europe he falls in with a German woman, who leaves her nine-year-old daughter Alice (Yella Rottlander, below) in his care. Arriving in Amsterdam, Winter realises that he now has sole responsibility for the child, and sets about finding her grandmother.

Wenders builds this travelogue at an ambling, desultory pace, seeming to happen on scenes almost by accident and allowing his camera to linger on whatever takes his fancy a boy mooching by a jukebox, a late-night screening of a John Ford movie on TV. The fragmentary approach could never be called exhilarating, but it has a sly humour, and the mood is sustained by Vogler and Rottlander as the unlikely companions.