Wenders, Downtown

June 6th, 2005 · 4 Comments · Artists

Still from Wim Wenders’s new film Land of Plenty, [source]

Wim Wenders is an artist obsessed with specific places, capable of capturing the near-exact likeness of a particular spot of the globe with a complex layering of sound-scapes and music, mise en scène, unique characters and site-specific story-lines. The culmination is a portrait of a place: Berlin, Havana, the wide open betweens of the American West, and, over and over again, Los Angeles.

The End of Violence gave us a cinematic sweep of the city, with its tangle of highways, observatory views, gardeners’ trucks, ferris-wheeled boardwalks, pool-side phone conferences, and the deadly noir of underworld. Then, in 2000, Wenders zoomed in on downtown L.A. in his eloquent, but under-rated, The Million Dollar Hotel.

Downtown Los Angeles proved too full of stories to capture in just one film, and so Wenders made another set in the region so few Angeleos are familiar with: Land of Plenty. The premise of the film was sparked in part by the surprising fact that Los Angeles is the hunger capital of the U.S.

Land of Plenty is currently on the film festival circuit, but you can see the trailer here, or read an interview with Wenders on the Los Angeles Downtown Arts District website here. Wenders talks about his faith, his father, and the beginning of rebirth for New York City after Sept. 11 here.

Category: Artists

4 Comments so far ↓

  • Micah

    Wow, great interviews, especially the second one.
    That “sense of place,” specifically of Los Angeles, revealed even in the Land of Plenty trailer, reminds me of Michael Mann’s Heat and Collateral, each of which really use the LA urban “landscape” as textural fabric for the story. In other words, that same “sense of place” sensibility, which I really like in a film.
    I’ve got Paris, Texas at home from Netflix, and look very much forward to seeing it, as well as the rest of Wenders’ work. Sounds like he’s got a great thing going.

  • Meg

    Micah, yes! Michael Mann has that same rooted sensibility, and captures the contradictions of this city so well. Both films are an homage to Los Angeles. In Collateral, the coyote appearing on the street and sizing up Tom Cruise, is the most poignant and perfect summation of this crazy city, where wild animals still roam.
    I think you’ll love Paris, Texas: it captures small-town Texana in the same precise way. Every time we make the drive from LA to Dallas, I think of that movie all through the long miles of West Texas.

  • Michael

    Some very astute observations about Wenders. He is indeed obsessed with place, and, to a certain extent, space — both physical and temporal. I keep thinking of his uses of place and space in Wings of Desire, his sense of history, past and present, and even of the boundaries between spiritual and physical states of being.
    Micah makes a great point about Mann and his use of Los Angeles. I don’t think any director has conveyed the sense and feel of L.A. as well as Mann has. Mann, too, is quite adept at filming physical space and boundaries — his sense of movement, for example, in his action sequences is unmatched; as David Denby wrote in The New Yorker, Mann gets “inside” the physical event, instead of just observing it from the outside.
    I can’t wait to see Land of Plenty.

  • Meg

    Michael, I’ll have to check out the Denby article. Mann is another one of those directors who I’m just about guaranteed to like, no matter what they put on the screen. I went to the first public screening of Collateral, and it was so raw the music tracks were mostly missing and there were rough cuts between scenes.
    Now, the music is one of the things I love best about a Mann film (didn’t he make a few music videos?), but even without his signature score, the film soared. He must have the best location scout in Hollywood, too, because those places — the nightclub in EastLos, the apartment complex off of Wilshire near downtown where the first murder takes place, the pedestrian bridge over the 110, the Metro station on the 105 — are pitch-perfect descriptors of life in this city.

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