Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wenders on Faraway, So Close

From The Cinema of Wim Wenders and The Celluloid Highway:

"The hesitancy to say something rests on the inability to form an opinion. Everybody wants to stay out of things. But with the present situation, one cannot stay out of things. Today, films are evaluated exclusively by their entertainment value, and it bothered many people that Faraway, So Close had a message, especially if they saw it as a Christian message."

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"Stories are impossible, but it's impossible to live without them. That's the mess I'm in."

Interviewed by Daly and Waugh at Film West:

"I think every film is a new exploration of that equation, and that each film defines its own time and its own space, and each film does so from scratch. Faraway, so Close certainly defined a different time to Wings of Desire which is after all what the title of its sequel is referring back to."

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"Faraway so Close was the first script that Ulrich ever wrote. He’s a young German poet. He wrote two stage plays and basically a collection of poems and his poems were the only thing I knew when I contacted him. Maybe it’s also because I know so well the structure and the story of what I want to do, or even if I don’t know it I feel it’s something that has to come from myself. Because the one thing that I really can’t find for myself, and that other people are so much better at is to invent characters, and to have different people speak differently, which is an incredible gift I think, to write a script and achieve this phenomenon that one person speaks according to his character and he sits at a table with somebody else who speaks differently. Whatever I did in my life, whenever I was writing dialogue, everybody was speaking with my voice and that’s boring. I really think it’s a fantastic gift to be able to write dialogue, but of course nobody just writes dialogue. Whenever you sit and write with somebody they are getting involved with the story, the structure and with the various scenes. I was never really looking for somebody who was a screenwriter in the sense that he was responsible for the ‘screen-play’. I was looking for somebody who was just a good writer."

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From John Wilson's The Best Christian Writing 2004.

"Far Away, So Close! was a film that was clearly made with religious intent. I mean, it even starts with a quotation from the Gospel of Matthew: 'The eye is the lap of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness'."

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"In Far Away, So Close! there's an entire film happening just on an audio level, and it's filled with all sorts of quotes, many from the Old and New Testaments. From the beginning, I felt that if we ever made a second film with these angel characters, I couldn't pretend that nothing had happened to me in between. I couldn't make another film in which the angels were metaphors, because they were no longer metaphors to me. If I made another film about angels, they would have to be messengers of God, the go-betweens. They could refer only to God, because as messengers, they were nothing in themselves -- the message was everything. So the film had to be filled with their message. To do anything else with these characters would have been to betray my entire experience. The film would have to be with God from beginning to end, because that would be the angels' only intention. Unlike Wings of Desire, where their metaphorical choice was to become human, in Far Away, So Close! that was no longer an option. It does happen that the angel Cassiel becomes a man, but only so that he then can return to being an angel. In a strange way, in Wings of Desire the spiritual world was a metaphor, but in Far Away, So Close! life is the metaphor for something spiritual.
In hindsight, I must say, I was too didactic. The film was way too cerebral. In the first year you become a missionary or a priest, you probably, make nothing but mistakes because you're too upfront about things. You're too filled with a certain desire, and that kills everything you want to achieve. When I see the film now, and I hear all those quotes, I must say that I was filled with too much missionary fervor."

Beineix's The Moon In the Gutter is Coming to Berkeley

Nastassja Kinski, Jean-Jacques Beineix, Moon in the Gutter
A kind reader has informed me that the Berkley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive will be hosting a rare screening of Jean-Jacques Beineix's The Moon in the Gutter as part of a David Goodis retrospective on Saturday, August 23rd. The screening will be hosted by noir aficionado and former film programmer for the Roxie Cinema, Elliot Lavine, and information on this welcome event can be found here.
I'm thrilled to see that the film is not only being screened but is also closing the festival, which also includes the terrific Bogart and Bacall film Dark Passage, Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player and half a dozen others. I wish I had the means to get to the screening but even though I can't I thought some interested readers here might...and if anyone does a full report would be most appreciated! Who knows, with Nastassja Kinski recently making a surprising appearance at The New Beverly Cinema's screening of Exposed, perhaps she might revisit this one as well.

Nastassja on Faraway, So Close

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"I'm truly lucky that Wenders saw and believed in me, and truly lucky to have worked with him three times."
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"I often feel with God and humans and angels that it's up to us to make something or to break it, to do things or not to do them. The angels in Faraway, So Close are observers, and they are frustrated because they can't do anything: they can be there, they can soothe, they can speak to people's souls and hearts, but they can't prevent things from happening unless they become human. So their role is kind of a sad one. They say to humans, 'You think we're far away but we're really close. We are nothing, and you are everything to us, and everything's in your power.' I could really understand this-I've always thought it was that way. Faith is important, and yet it's here on earth with each other that we have to do our best."
-to Sheila Benson in Interview, 1993-
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"Wenders was always nice, very calm, steady. He created a family atmosphere, everything I wanted."
-To Suzie MacKenzie in The Guardian, 1999-
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Monday, July 28, 2008

The Welcome Return of Exposed?

A kind reader alerted me to the fact that The New Beverly Theater is currently having the remarkable double feature of James Toback's Fingers and Exposed. According to this readers report, in attendance opening night was Nastassja Kinski herself. Toback was also there presenting the film and apparently introduced Nastassja, which no doubt made for an extraordinarily memorable evening all the way around. I really hope this current and surprising news leads to Exposed finally getting a DVD release sometime in the near future.

A fellow blogger has posted a nice report on this event that can be read here.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Facebook Group Started

I have just started a Facebook group for Nostalgia Kinky and wanted to invite any readers here who have Facebook accounts to join up. Feel free to participate in respectful discussions, post photos, videos or just connect with other Kinski fans.

I hope everyone who visits here regularly will join up and as a reminder the MySpace page is still opened as well. Thank you.

Shooting Kinski: Jurgen Jurges

Award winning cinematographer Jurgen Jurges was born in war ravaged Germany a couple of weeks before Christmas in 1940. Jurges discovered a natural eye for photography very early on and by his twenties it was his main focus and passion. He began his cinematic career in 1966 as an assistant cameraman on the acclaimed Young Torless from director Volker Schlondorff.
Things really began to kick in gear for the talented Jurges when he shot Ulli Lommell’s astonishing Tenderness of the Wolves in 1973 which led him directly to Lommell’s mentor, Ranier Werner Fassbinder.
With the legendary Fassbinder, Jurgen shot some of the most important films of the seventies including Ali: Fear Eats The Soul (1974), Effi Breist (1974) and Fear of Fear (1975).
As essential as his work for Fassbinder is, my favorite project of Jurgen’s is absolutely Uli Edel’s heartbreaking 1981 feature Christiane F., one of the most powerful films centering on drug addiction ever filmed. Jurgen’s work is absolutely superb in this production and it is hard to imagine the film’s spiritually icy landscape being photographed by anyone else.
Jurgen’s work on the black and white and color Faraway, So Close is quite striking and he would be honored with a German Oscar for his work on the film. Surprisingly it remains the only time Wenders and Jurgen would work together, even though artistically they seemed to represent a perfect fit. It would also mark the only time he ever photgraphed Nastassja in a film.
Jurgen’s continues to be one of the most in demand cinematographers in Germany and in 2002 he was given a lifetime achievement award at the German Oscars, an honor well deserved for one of cinema’s most striking stylists.

The Faraway, So Close Soundtrack

There is one thing you can be sure of when discussing a Wim Wenders film, and that is that the soundtrack is guaranteed to be a winner. Such is the case with the incredible album that accompanied his Faraway, So Close, an LP made up of stirring compositions by Laurent Petitgand and songs by modern rock’s finest.
French born Petitgand came into this world in 1959, just as the French were discovering rock and roll and we were discovering their new wave films. The multi-instrumentalist got his first exposure to music by singing in a church choir as a child, something that would set in motion his life’s passion for music, the theater and film.
Petitgand scored his first job in a film as composer on the Isabelle Huppert vehicle The Wings of the Dove in 1981. Five years would pass before his next assignment but it would prove to be a life altering one as it for Wim Wender’s 1985 production Tokyo-Ga. Wenders immediately took a shine to Petitgand and his music and he brought him on board his Wings of Desire in 1987 for a song and then again as a composer for his 1989 documentary A Notebook on Clothes and Cities. Petitgand also began appearing in front of the camera in this period, for Wenders and other directors.
Petitgand’s score for Faraway, So Close is quite majestic and is one of the films strongest points, even though it is often overlooked due to the other more well known artists on the record. The film remains perhaps the highpoint of Petitgand’s career as a composer so far although his work since on productions like Antonioni’s 1995 feature Beyond The Clouds (co-directed by Wenders) and Paul Auster’s 2007 work The Inner Life of Martin Frost is exceptional.

Surrounding Petitgand on the album is an incredible amount of talent including such legendary figures as Lou Reed, U2, Nick Cave, Johnny Cash and Laurie Anderson as well as such notable underground figures like Simon Bonney and Jane Siberry. Wender’s knows his stuff and all of the artists here deliver exceptional work with special mention going to Reed’s ferocious "Why Can’t I Be Good" (used to devestating effect in the film in a performance clip) and Bonney’s stunning "Travelin’ On". While most of these songs weren’t written specifically for Wender’s film you really can’t tell as they all work for it perfectly.

The album was a bigger hit back in 1994 than the film when they both came out which makes it surprising that it is currently out of print in America. Copies can still be found fairly easily though and it is highly recommended.

Friday, July 18, 2008

In Camera Mia: 20 Screen Shots

Despite being given second billing in Luciano Martino’s In Camera Mia, Nastassja only appears in a handful of scenes throughout the films 95 minute running time. I am unable to offer up a review of what appears to be a rather slight sex comedy due to the fact that my copy is only in Italian. The film is definitely a vehicle for Gianfranco Manredi and is probably most notable for giving future Italian screen goddess Vittoria Belvedere her first big screen role. Here are some screen captures of Nastassja in this rather mysterious entry in her filmography. My look at Faraway, So Close will continue this weekend.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Critical Reactions: Faraway, So Close

Critical reaction to Nastassja's third film with Wim Wenders, Faraway So Close, was mixed with critics either finding much to love or much to hate. Here is a small sampling of critical views to Wender's Wings of Desire follow-up.
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"Wenders is sincere in his acknowledgement of a spiritual dimension in human experience...he has a marvelous cast (including) Nastassja Kinksi as an angel who remains angelic...Wender's impulses are laudable and the best moments of his new picture are magnificent."
-David Sterritt, Christian Science Monitor-

"Profound...arguably a great film...demanding but truly rewarding."
-Kevin Thomas, LA Times-

"'Faraway, So Close,' is a lyrical and profoundly goofy continuation of Mr. Wenders's 1987 cult hit "Wings of Desire...Mr. Wenders, the king of road movies, is at his best when he sets his angels free as if they were in a road movie of the air. Cassiel and a beautiful angel called Raphaela (Nastassja Kinski, underused here) discover that Berlin is rife with Americans. Among them are Peter Falk and Lou Reed, whose cameos provide some bright, tongue-in-cheek moments, though the scenes also suggest that Mr. Wenders's idea of German unification has more to do with geography and slogans than with politics...But there is also great daring, wit and style. Like Mr. Wenders's previous film, last year's "Until the End of the World," this one begins as a swirl of dazzling ambition and at midpoint turns into a mess. Even so, and even at 2 hours and 20 minutes, it is one of the more intriguing messes on screen."
-Caryn James, New York Times-

"As Wings was Damiel's story, so Faraway is Cassiel's. Unlike its predecessor, this is not a light, mystical romance, but a somewhat muddled narrative that ends up resembling an offbeat action/adventure movie. It's still a film about issues -- humanity, the soul, time, and Nazism -- but it lacks many of the "art" aspect of Wings, relying more on straightforward storytelling...The cast is excellent. It's nice to see Bruno Ganz and Solveig Dommartin (Marion) together again, although their importance is greatly reduced from Wings...About the only thing I can say regarding a recommendation is that a viewing of Wings of Desire is almost mandatory before seeing Faraway, So Close! Going into this film without the background of its predecessor will leave a movie-goer adrift and confused. On the other hand, sitting through Wings of Desire doesn't guarantee enjoyment of the sequel (in fact, many fans of the first will probably be sorely disappointed by the turn that this script takes), but going cold into Faraway, So Close! will almost certainly lead to a negative reaction."
- James Berardinelli, ReelViews-
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"Wenders is at his serene best when he's being impressionistic and intuitive, when he's compiling the cinematic equivalent of a scrapbook -- a collection of images, sounds and feelings. You only have to watch "Wings" or his lesser known work -- like "Tokyo-Ga" (a beautiful, diary-film pilgrimage to Japan, land of Wenders's hero-director, Yasujiro Ozu) -- to appreciate that. But "Faraway" feels manufactured rather than authentically realized. There seems to be no internal momentum, or purpose, to it. Even Sander's once-compelling presence becomes increasingly tiresome.
The film's final poetic messages about angels, people and love, is undeniably appealing; it's the heartfelt center to the movie. But the narrative journey up to this point has been so frustrating and inconsistent, the conclusion feels like an afterthought."
-Desson Howe, Washington Post-

"Like the original, "Wings 2" is endearing, even if it is a spiritual muddle. It is rapturously photographed and drunk on its own metaphysical hyperbole. Like most sequels -- the exception would be "The Godfather, Part II" -- it's a second helping, though it helps that Wenders is serving angel dust."
-Rita Kempley, Washington Post-

"In Faraway, So Close! Wim Wenders offers us an imaginative look at the interplay between angels and humans. Cassiel's journey through Berlin captures and conveys the demons of modernism which keep humans from any deep interest in the invisible--the frantic rush of life, the separateness of individuals in their own private worlds, and the seeds of violence scattered in images, guns, and economic competition.
At the same time, this touching and fluid movie speaks forcefully to those who believe in angels and their providential place in our lives. Wenders challenges us to think seriously about the mystery that lies at the heart of life--our capacity for good and for evil. This story about Cassiel's sojourn on earth testifies to the narcissism, indifference, and violence of our time. But it is also comforting to know that guardian angels are watching over us and always will. The world is a far better place because they are ever so close."
-Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice-
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"Gone is the visual and stylistic poetry of Wings of Desire, replaced by an absurd kidnapping subplot and tedious expositional dialogue. Guns are drawn and redrawn, Dafoe tries his best to look menacing, but it all feels like someone else was calling the shots. Above all, it doesn't feel like a Wenders film; the tone is all wrong, as if Joel Silver had gotten control of the production and hired Walter Hill to direct (I was waiting for the Ahnold to plod through at one point, but thankfully he never bothered to show up). It's a mess, but it's Wenders' mess, and that means that there are any number of salvageable parts to the whole. His use of crisp black-and-white cinematography for the angelic shots remains startling and reinforces Cassiel's bewilderment once he is earthbound, his holy armor tucked beneath his arm. People who were waiting for Wings of Desire II can exhale now, though. It's not going to happen, and when you stop to think about it, once really is enough."
-Marc Savloy, Austin Chronicle-

"Wenders' follow-up to Wings of Desire is a considerable disappointment, a sprawling metaphysical caper movie which has much in common with his previous picture, Until the End of the World. Beginning a few years after Damiel (Ganz) hung up his wings to settle down with Marion (Dommartin), the film follows the angel Cassiel (Sander) as he too becomes mortal. Life doesn't throw him any great romance, however - instead, he finds himself in an extraordinary convoluted (and extremely tedious) mystery thriller. We get jokes, whimsy, hijinks and escapades; we get Lou Reed strumming a new song; we even get bungee-jumping at the climax. What's lacking is any sense of form. The movie meanders for two and a half hours, has glaring continuity gaps, and repeatedly confuses self-consciousness with irony, sincerity with significance. There are grace notes here, but Wenders' ambitions seem far, far away."

"Faraway, So Close has had a rough ride ever since it was screened last year at Cannes, ina version 20 minutes longer. It had a reception of bemused shrugs. British critics have written it off as a further step into irreversible dementia...and it has been called formless, sentimental and pretentious...but I am putting Faraway, So Close right into my list of great misunderstood's massively flawed but gloriously so...Faraway so Close isn't a fully formed film like Wings of Desire, which is why I prefer it. It's a semi-improvised drunken notebook of has grace to spare."
-Jonathan Romney, New Statesman and Society-

"Wenders may want us to forget Wings of Desire, But I don't want to. And Faraway So Close isn't the film to make anyone forget it."
-John Anderson, Newsday-
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"frequently irritating, it's rarely boring. And it has moments of delight...but in the end it founders under the weight of it's own self-indulgence."
-Phillip Kemp, Sight and Sound-

"routine and bizarrely arbitrary...looser wackier and more comic than Wings of Desire...light headed without being funny...(it has) a loopy grandeur...(Kinski is) suitably beatific."
-J. Hoberman, Village Voice-

"A bizarre, uneven, often captivating piece of work...odd, tender and surprising...Kinski projects a solemn, haunting beauty in this film that is truly otherworldly."
-Michael Medved, New York Post-

The above shots are taken from the essential Nastassja Kinski JP. I will be offering up my own screenshots later in this series.

Shooting Kinski: Sabastiano Celeste

Despite never receiving the acclaim or stature of many of his peers, Cinematographer Sabastiano Celeste (a photographer who often works under the name of Nino Celeste) has had an adventerous and sometime daring career in his forty plus years behind the camera.
After working throughout the early sixties as a camera operator attempting to break through in Italian cinema (with a Pier Pasolini short being among his earliest credits) he didn’t get his first proper cinematographer credit until 1970 with Valentino Orsini’s Corbari. This flawed but interesting political feature starring Giuliano Gemma and Tina Aumont kick started a career that has continued steadily up till this day.
While he would continue to work as camera operator on some more Pasolini productions, Celeste really made his name as a cinematographer on more exotic genre fair for directors like Bruno Corbucci and Umberto Lenzi . Genre favorites like Corbucci’s The Cop In Blue Jeans (1976) and Lenzi’s Violent Naples (1976) showed Celeste as an expert at capturing a gritty urban feel while his work on Mario and Lamberto Bava’s Venus of Ille (1979) and the great 1986 Italian Horror film Spider Labyrinth showed him as more poetic with his photography than might have been previously imagined.
By the eighties Celeste found himself working more and more in comedy (with films like the Carmen Russo vehicle My Wife Goes Back To School from 1981) and softcore erotic fare (the late period Laura Gemser Black Emanuelle entry 1982’s Emanuelle, Queen of the Desert probably being the most well known). By the time he shot Nastassja in In Camera Mia in 1992, he was mostly working in television productions (including Lucio Fulci’s Sweet House of Horrors from 1989) with the odd theatrical gig thrown in for good measure.
The bits and pieces I have seen of In Camera Mia show Celeste’s photography as competent if not overly memorable, although since I have yet to see the full film with a good print it is hard for me to accurately give a verdict. Directed by Sergio Martino’s older brother Luciano, In camera Mia would do little for anyone involved, including Nastassja or Celeste.
Since In Camera Mia, Celeste has continued working for both the big and small screen. The Martino film would mark the only time he would photograph Nastassja. His most recent credit is an Italian TV series entitled Agrodolce.

In Camera Mia: Short Scene

Some nice soul uploaded this short scene from one of Nastassja's hardest to see films.

In Camera Mia DVD Artwork

DVD Artwork from one of Nastassja's hardest to see films.

Nastassja On eBay: Two Rare Kino Covers