Movie of the Week: ‘The American Friend’

“The American Friend” (1977) – Jonathan Zimmerman (Bruno Ganz) is modest picture framer, and while his Hamburg, Germany shop gives him little stress, his declining health frequently preys on his thoughts.  What will become of his wife and son after his soon-to-be passing? 

Well, he passes an American art dealer, Tom Ripley (Dennis Hopper), at a local auction.  He slights him, actually, and Tom now has Jonathan in his sights, and it’s not a pretty picture.

Director Wim Wenders pits this odd German and American pair together, as Tom manipulates Jonathan into his world, a place where honesty and other mainstream virtues are negligible.  Hopper gives a constant presence – either out in the open or lurking below the surface – of mischief or worse, and Ganz plays our mild-manner hero, who does not always sense the risks. That is, until it’s too late, and then he reluctantly plays along.

Jonathan Zimmerman (Bruno Ganz)

“The American Friend” is not playful at all. It’s a slow burn, and an awfully compelling one, as Hopper and Ganz – at the top of their games – light up the screen in a highly-memorable atmospheric noir.

⭐⭐⭐ 1/2 out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Directed by: Wim Wenders

Written by: Wim Wenders, based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith

Starring: Bruno Ganz, Dennis Hopper, Lisa Kreuzer, and Gerard Blain

Rated: NR

Runtime: 128 minutes

Image credits: Filmverlag der Autoren

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