Sunday, May 10, 2020

[Roll Your Own Life] The Movies That Made Me (Part 14)


What a movie! I don't know what drew me to it. I'd watched some Wim Wenders movies before - Wings of Desire and Paris, Texas, most notably, but I guess it was the weird scifi cover of the VHS in the video store that appealed to me initially. It wasn't the usual poster, and featured William Hurt wearing weird cyberpunk goggles on the cover over a neon cityscape. Cool, cyberpunky movie set in 1999. Can't go wrong really.

I remember renting it from the video store and sitting down to watch the mammoth three hour long movie and being kinda blown away by its scope.

The plot is kinda nuts, but fairly simple in concept. Claire (the late Solveig Dommartin is a bit of a free spirit, and during her wanderings she crosses paths with a mysterious guy - Sam Farber (William Hurt). They hit it off, and there's a collision with a bunch of bank robbers where Claire ends up with loads of stolen cash. Sam runs off with some of the money to continue his weird quest, and Claire turns to her estranged lover Eugene (Sam Neill) for help tracking Sam down.

Okay so far? Sam's quest involves travelling the world with a weird device that allows him to record his brainwaves while he talks to his family spread all around the world. He hopes to take his recordings back to his parents in Australia, using the device so that his blind mother can see her family from the brainwave recordings. So begins a chase all around the world as Claire follows Sam, and Eugene follows Claire, as well as various private investigators, and the US government who want the technology that Sam has run off with.

Add to this the weird backdrop of an Indian nuclear satellite spinning out of control threatening to crash somewhere on the planet, and the worldwide panic it causes, and you have an epic roadmovie that follows characters around eleven countries around the world.

And then, about two-thirds of the way through the movie the US shoot down the satellite, causing an electromagnetic pulse that takes out the world's technology, and the character assemble in a protected underground base in Australia, where they discover the tech that was used to record brainwaves can be used to record and playback dreams...

Now you can see why I love this movie. Yes, it's about dreams, but it is also one of the most beautiful and stylish movies I've seen. The locations are phenomenal, the film took months to film, and the tech is revolutionary. The soundtrack - all commissioned for the film (except the U2 title track) - is brilliant. It's just lovely, moving, and touching. An intimate tale of a writer who loves a woman, who loves another man, who is obsessed with helping his mother.

I loved it.

And then I discovered it was the short version of the film. Yes, the three hour cut I saw on VHS was slightly longer than the version shown in the States, but it is only half the film. I managed to get a German import version of the "trilogy cut" where the movie is split onto three disks with a total running time of 280mins. Nearly six hours of it.

It's one of those weird movies that I love even though there are whole chunks of dialogue I can't understand. There's about twenty minutes of the extended cut I have that is purely in French with no subtitles - but I manage to follow the basics with the help of my old O-level French knowledge. (I'm hoping there are subtitles on the new Criterion BluRay of the long cut - please release it in the UK!)

When you think about the sheer scale of the project, it's just amazing. When some film makers are given some cash and allowed to produce their own thing they go a little off the rails and produce some weird disasters, but Wim Wenders' produces a lovingly crafted, relaxed paced, masterpiece. The first cut of Until The End Of The World is apparently 20hours (and will never be seen, which is a shame) though I'd love to see it as an extended miniseries over twenty episodes. Yes, it is long, and by the time you get to the existential last section as people get addicted to rewatching glimpses of their own dreams, you've almost forgotten where this epic journey began... But it is well worth putting in the hours.

I love it. I really must give it a rewatch.

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