This atmospheric neo-noir from 1977 combines gripping action sequences and Mafia violence with a darkly humorous existentialism, caught in the cross-currents of America and West Germany. Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel, Ripley’s Game, this film marked Wenders’ international breakthrough.
Tom Ripley, played with menacing charisma by Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider, Blue Velvet), is an American living in Hamburg who is criminally embedded in the world of art forgery.
He meets Jonathan Zimmerman, played by Bruno Ganz (Wings of Desire, Downfall) a picture-framer dying of cancer who becomes embroiled (through Ripley’s manipulation) in the escalating complexity of a murder plot.
Wenders also decided to mischievously cast known film directors in all the gangster roles: Gérard Blain (Les Amis, Le Pelican), Nicholas Ray (Jonny Guitar, Rebel Without a Cause), Jean Eustache (Le Maman et La Putain) and Samuel Fuller (Shock Corridor, The Naked Kiss, Forty Guns).
Featuring music from The Kinks, Bob Dylan and the Beatles, The American Friend stands as a playfully self-conscious statement on 70s cinema smuggled into the murky descent of a thriller.