Surely I do not need to prove to anyone my love for the cinema of German writer-director Wim Wenders; thrice I have named Wenders the year’s best—twice for his contribution to scripts and once for the year’s best film. In the Course of Time (1976) is indeed one of the greatest films on Earth and amidst the stars in the heavens.
But oh my God, Lisbon Story, from Germany and Portugal, is boring. While it might have worked as a brave non-narrative piece, Wenders adopts a drifty non-narrative air which he spoils by cramming in one narrative suggestion after another, each of which (except at the very end) he stymies, frustrates or otherwise thwarts. Upshot: the 100-minute film feels like 200 minutes. Watching Lisbon Story is a punishing experience.
Even all the Hitchcock references, under the circumstances, annoy. And that damn buzzing fly that sound engineer Winter keeps trying to kill so he can get some sleep doesn’t delight once Wenders repeats the “gag” over and over and over again.
With one leg in a cast, Winter hobbles around Lisbon collecting sounds to suit the images of friend Friedrich’s latest film, a monochromatic silent. Winter stays at Friedrich’s place, expecting to meet up with him, but Friedrich, having abandoned the project (“Images are no longer to be trusted”), never shows up. Winter eventually finds him hiding out in the city. Together, they complete the film-within-the-film. By this time, Winter’s leg has shed its cast.
Somehow, Wenders makes insufficient use of a beautiful woman and singer for whom Winter’s interest grows.
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