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."
-TimeOut-

"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 films...it'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 jottings...it 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.

1 comment:

The King Of Cool said...

I saw Wings of Desire, but not this film. I'll be interested in seeing your thoughts on it since it has such mixed reaction.