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HTF REVIEW: "The American Friend" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Jan 14, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    The American Friend

    Studio: Anchor Bay
    Year: 1977
    Rated: NR
    Film Length: 125 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.77:1)
    Subtitles: None (except for German translation)

    Wim Wenders is perhaps Germany's most renowned
    director of the New German Cinema, using heavy
    American influence in his films. Perhaps no film
    of his has received more international attention
    than The American Friend, a film that
    continues to show Wender's insatiable appetite for
    American movies. It was the success of this film
    that brought him to the attention of Francis Ford
    Coppola who invited him to come to the states a
    year later to make his first film for Zoetrope,
    Lightning over Water. His most highly
    acclaimed film, Wings of Desire was released
    in 1987.
    Originally released as Der Amerikanische Freund,
    this is a story of a Jonathan Zimmerman (Bruno
    Ganz) a picture framer and art restorationist
    who lives in Hamburg with his wife and son. Jonathan
    has been diagnosed with leukemia and doesn't expect
    that he will be living much longer.
    Enter Tom Ripley (Dennis Hopper), an American art
    dealer who knows of Jonathan's illness and sets him
    up as a hit man. The only reason Jonathan considers
    such a job is to ensure his family's financial future.
    Soon, Jonathan finds himself in a Paris train station
    pursuing a man he is destined to kill.
    I found the The American Friend to be a
    nice surprise on several levels. First, I found
    this to be a pretty damn good film -- nicely paced,
    beautifully photographed in the city of Paris, and
    embodied with a captivating atmosphere. It's
    interesting to watch this ordinary man slowly get
    tangled into a web of deceit and murder.
    How is the transfer?
    When one considers that this film was a low-budget
    European film from 1977, you would expect there to
    be skepticism about how good this film would look
    on DVD some 25 years later. I had the same doubts,
    and actually from the opening moments of the film
    that features the Twin Towers in the distance, I
    was somewhat concerned. You'll be happy to hear
    that the film's gritty title images are the only
    sore point of this transfer. From hereon in, this
    film looks pretty darn amazing.
    Transfer is surprisingly clean and sharp. There
    is hardly a trace of underlying film grain or noise.
    The film doesn't have that overly dated look to it,
    resulting in colors that look extremely vivid. Flesh
    tones run slightly red, though look generally good.
    I was even amazed at how clean whites look here which
    is unusual for a film of this type. I had expected
    far worse from this transfer and instead was blown
    away at how good it looks after 25 years.
    Another big surprise is the 5.1 Digital surround
    mix that is extremely active. Not only is audio
    clean and bright across the front channels, but
    there always seems to be some sort of activity
    going on in the rear channels -- the seagulls and
    foghorns of the Hamburg harbor, the city traffic
    of Paris or rumbles of a train speeding inside a
    Metro tunnel -- all nicely reproduced here. Jürgen
    Knieper's score manages to extend itself to the rear
    channels as well. Even the LFE channel produced
    some supportive rumbling sound throughout the film.
    Special Features
    I must mention that while this is yet another
    Anchor Bay release that comes without standard
    subtitling, this film does offer text translation
    for the German dialogue spoken throughout.
    This is actually the first film I have ever seen
    that features an equal amount of German and English
    dialogue depending on the actors used in the scene.
    A full-length Commentary features the low-key
    raspy voice of director Wem Wenders and the unmistakable
    presence of actor Dennis Hopper. Wenders talks about
    wanting to make this film because of his fascination
    with Patricia Highsmith's novels. He never was able
    to secure the rights to the novels he wanted.
    It wasn't until he met with Patricia that she offered
    him the rights to Ripley's Game, which became
    The American Friend. Hopper talks about the
    section of Hamburg where the frame shop existed and
    the fact that it was about to be torn down. Before
    that could happen, the film was made there, making
    it the last known record of an area that no longer
    exists. The film was shot almost entirely on
    location and its sound is 99% true to its original
    source. Hopper tells a story about his New York
    shoot where he admits to sort of being out of it.
    In Hamburg, however, he felt he was able to be more
    creative with his character. It was cool to hear
    Wenders talk about how he shot the train sequences --
    all of it was shot in a studio with rear projection
    as blue screen was not available at the time. The
    results are surprisingly authentic. This commentary
    truly belongs to Wenders, and he's a pleasure to
    listen to here.
    There are 36 minutes of deleted scenes here
    that are a mish-mosh of goofs, behind-the-camera
    shots and extensions of scenes already included.
    Some of the extra scenes are interesting for the
    fact that they look at how Jonathan's wife dealt
    with her kids and stage career while he was in
    Paris. Not only can you watch these scenes with
    a 5.1 surround mix, but you have the option of
    viewing them with commentary from Wim Wenders.
    Also included is the film's original trailer
    and a nice set of Talent Bios that you give
    you interesting text background on Wenders, Ganz
    and Hopper.
    Final Thoughts
    While it is always difficult to sell this type
    of film to American audiences, I think The
    American Friend will be a nice surprise to
    anyone unfamiliar with the work of Wim Wenders.
    It's not only a gripping action yarn, but a fine
    piece of cinema that should not be missed.
    Release Date: January 7, 2003
    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
  2. TerryW

    TerryW Stunt Coordinator

    Jul 25, 2000
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    Thanks, Ron! I'd just voted for this one in your other thread. I have a really crappy copy of this movie I taped off of a PBS channel a few years back. I'll be very happy to upgrade to, what looks like, another excellent Anchor Bay DVD. [​IMG]
  3. Michael St. Clair

    May 3, 1999
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    The original laserdisc had a very cool video interview with Dennis Hopper where he describes the 'suicide chair'.
  4. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

    Dec 20, 1999
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    Thanks for the review, Ron (I was one of those who suggested this title). Hearing that the transfer is excellent and that there some good extras is terrific news - I've got to pick this one up right away.
  5. Mark Cappelletty

    Mark Cappelletty Cinematographer

    Jun 6, 1999
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    I can't wait to get this-- unfortunately, I can't find it anywhere in the Los Angeles area (Laser Blazer has the others in the "Wim Wenders" collection that came out last week). One of my all-time favorites. Thanks Ron!
  6. Tommy G

    Tommy G Screenwriter

    Sep 19, 2000
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    Mark, BestBuy.com has it for $14.99. Pretty good deal.
  7. Jason Hughes

    Jason Hughes Supporting Actor

    Oct 17, 1998
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    Jason Hughes

    Thanks, Ron. I was one of the ones that requested you review this one.

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