Three weeks ago, 18 Cinema Lane received 210 followers! Because I was in the middle of coordinating my PB & J Double Feature and reviewing films for Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Clean Movie Month, I postponed my 210-follower dedication review. During that time, my blog also received 215 followers! This caused me to combine my 210 and 215 follower dedications into one review. Since last March, I’ve had a recording of Alice in the Cities on my DVR. As you can tell by the title of this post, this is the film I have chosen to write about. Every so often, I try to watch and/or review a movie that was created outside of North America. Most of these films have come from Europe. Prior to watching Alice in the Cities, the only German film I’ve written about on 18 Cinema Lane was Nosferatu. What’s interesting is how, like the 1922 movie, Alice in the Cities was restored as a result of two different versions of the project. According to a message at the beginning of the film, the movie was filmed in two separate millimeters.
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: According to an article from Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM’s) website, Wim Wenders, the director of Alice in the Cities, was inspired to create this film after watching Rüdiger Vogler and Yella Rottländer perform together in a previous project. Having these two actors reunite for Alice in the Cities was a smart decision! I liked Rüdiger’s portrayal of Philip because it was consistent. Not only that, but he had a coolness about him as his character moved from one scene to the next. No matter what scenario was thrown in his path, Philip was calm and collected. This made Rüdiger’s performance appear effortless! Something that I noticed while watching Yella’s performance was how believable it was. Whether she was questioning Philip’s “scribbles” or asking for food, Yella’s body language, facial expressions, and overall demeanor appeared as one would expect from a child in Alice’s particular situation. It also helps that Yella worked with Wim and Rüdiger prior to this movie. Because of this, Yella appeared comfortable in the role she was given!
The cinematography: Alice in the Cities is filmed in black-and-white. This was done not only because of a personal decision by the director, but also to avoid having Alice in the Cities be compared to Paper Moon, a movie that was released a year before Wim’s project. When film fans think about black-and-white movies, productions that were released before 1965 will likely come to mind. However, it’s important to remember those titles were presented in black-and-white because filming in color was rarely an option. With Alice in the Cities, its presentation was purposefully chosen, which proved to be more interesting than I would have expected. It caused the story to be frozen in time, allowing the narrative to serve as a time-capsule. Having a few characters appear on screen at a given moment makes each interaction feel intimate, like the audience is directly a part of these verbal exchanges. I also liked how some scenes looked like the view came straight from Philip’s perspective. One great example is when Philip is boarding a train in Amsterdam.
Philip and Alice’s interactions: The majority of this story revolves around Philip’s search for Alice’s grandmother, which results in Philip and Alice spending a significant amount of time together. As I mentioned before, Rüdiger and Yella had worked together in a previous film. This helped their interactions come across as realistic. In the aforementioned TCM article, one of Wim’s inspirations for Alice in the Cities was his friend, who happened to be a single parent. This explains why Philip and Alice’s interactions feel like they are between father and daughter. Because of the quality of their acting abilities, Rüdiger and Yella were able to bring this idea to life in their performance! They were also able to equally carry the film.
What I didn’t like the film:
Scenes feeling like padding: There were some scenes in Alice in the Cities that ended up feeling like padding. One example is when Philip and Alice go to an ice cream shop. Within this scene, a shorter scene of a child eating their ice cream next to a juke box is included. This scene didn’t serve the overall story and felt like it was there just to be there. Personally, I think scenes like the shorter one I mentioned should have been cut from the film.
The run-time: IMDB lists Alice in the Cities with a run-time of one hour and fifty minutes. To me, this caused the movie to feel a bit too long. Like I previously stated, there were scenes in this film that felt like padding. Their purpose seemed to be that of satisfying this run-time. The story itself was also straight-forward. These two factors made me believe that, at least, ten minutes of this movie could have been shaved off.
An inconsistent exploration of Philip’s beliefs: At certain points in Alice in the Cities, Philip expresses his beliefs about topics like his dislike toward television and why he takes photos. Philip presents an interesting way of looking at things that most people wouldn’t think twice about. Unfortunately, these beliefs were not explored to a satisfying extent. As the story places a primary emphasis on Philip’s search for Alice’s grandmother, this exploration gets lost in the shuffle. It also creates an inconsistent inclusion of this part of the story.
My overall impression:
Turner Classic Movies (TCM) features an interesting article about Wim Wenders and the creation of Alice in the Cities. After reading about Wim’s personal struggles as a filmmaker and after learning about this film’s restoration efforts, it makes me glad that Alice in the Cities was able to see the light of day! Movies involving road trips usually don’t interest me. But because of Rüdiger Vogler and Yella Rottländer’s performance, I found myself invested in the journey of their characters! Creative cinematography and addressing Philip’s beliefs also help make this film likable and well-made. Even though Alice in the Cities is a fine film, there were things about it that prevented the overall project from being better. The main plot didn’t allow Philip’s beliefs to be explored to their fullest extent. It also doesn’t help that some scenes felt like padding. However, I’m thankful to have been given the opportunity to share this film with my followers! Thank you for helping 18 Cinema Lane reach these milestones! This blog would not be the same without you!
Overall score: 7.4 out of 10
Have you seen any movies created outside your home country? If so, what was your movie-viewing experience? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!
Have fun at the movies!
Here’s a link to the article from Turner Classic Movies that I mentioned in my review: