Despite 40 years of moviemaking, a cabinet of European awards and still finding time to direct everything from U2 music videos to Carling TV ads, Wim Wenders has always been a drifter in his own cinema of loneliness. His triple-A obsessions (“Alienation, Angst and America”) found mesmerising emotional landscapes in The American Friend (1977), Paris, Texas (1984) and Wings Of Desire (1987). But outside these lyrical belters, this 10-disc doorstop shows the German auteur struggling to shovel meaning into his woozy, wide-open spaces.
In fact, there’s very little of Wenders at all in yawny period adap The Scarlet Letter (1972) and Wrong Move (1975), a bleak cross-country trek that debuts 13-year-old Nastassja Kinski as a mute acrobat. But Wenders’ takes a far more engrossing – and finally heart-melting – journey in Tokyo-Ga (1985), a pilgrimage to Japan in search of his hero Yasujiro Ozu’s vanishing past. Wenders’ next trip to Tokyo can’t repeat the trick though: Fashion essay-doc Notebook On Clothes And Cities (1989) makes for a coma-victim double-bill with A Trick Of The Light (1996), a film-school doc about film projector inventors in Berlin.
Still, Wenders’ unique cinematic identity-crisis – and his career-long strain to articulate it – throbs harder in the remaining two curios. Lightning Over Water (1980) turns the last days of cancer-riddled Rebel Without A Cause director Nicholas Ray into an intimate, cathartic, troubling docu-drama – one that belongs to co-director Ray as much as Wenders. And only Wenders, toast of the Croisette, could have gathered the likes of Godard, Herzog, Spielberg, Fassbinder and Antonioni into a Cannes hotel room to sound off about the future of cinema. Chambre 666 (1982) inspires both cosmic blather and playful optimism – Herzog: “You can’t answer a question like this with your shoes on.” Extras-wise? Commentaries, cut scenes and token featurettes for the big three.