Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Dance Around The World

Bis ans End Der Welt (Until The End Of The World) (1992) directed by Wim Wenders

"Until The End Of The World" is Wim Wenders over 5 hour globe-trecking cyberpunk epic, intended to be "the ultimate road movie".It plays out like a miniseries, about a woman who just separated from her writer boyfriend(played by Sam Niel who serves as narrator), and crashes cars with wounded bank robbers, they offer to give her some of the money if she will transport the cash the rest of the way to Paris for them.She agrees and uses her money to finance the trip that ensues for the rest of the movie. She immediately after meets William Hurt, a mysterious hitchhiker she becomes fascinated with.He is on the lamb, but from who, and why? After he ditches her and steals a hefty sum she becomes obsessed with finding him. All the while a rouge Indian nuclear satellite hovers above the Earth, haywire and endangering a possible nuclear Apocalypse if it accidentally detonates. The world is closer to ending than it has ever been, which means its just a story on the news in the background, most people try to ignore. The first segment, in this three part film, is their chase cross country and continent, "A Dance Around The World", as the book about their lives is latter called. They begin in Italy, and go on to Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Beijing, Tokyo, San Francisco, and finally the Australian Outback, our heroin Miriam discovers, that Hurt is wanted for a stolen piece of Government property, a device that records the experience of seeing and translates the information as images.He is recording the most beautiful places in the world, for his blind mother. He is the son of Max Von Sydow, the inventor of the device. Their cat and mouse game becomes a whirlwind romance of constant movement and escape. By the third segment they reach Sydow's underground lab in Australia, where they also discover that the device cannot only record seeing for the blind, but can record dreams if left on during sleep.The aboriginals who run the lab with Sydow refuse to work on his dream machine. Slowly but believably the rest of the staff, becomes obsessed with staring into the recordings of their dreams, "It got to the point where they dreamed of their dreams...and fell ever deeper into the black well of Narcissus ." There are car crashes, planes losing power mid-flight, and one gorgeous locale after another. Like "Alphaville" and "The Fall" this film is completely indebted to its beautiful sights, that it finds and photographs.At five hours long, you can imagine it meanders a good deal.And it does, but for a film so dedicated to the pure spectacle and profound importance and danger of "seeing things", I didn't mind. Future content wise, there is a clear opposition between the dual natures of the machine, helping the blind to see the world, and allowing the sightful to intrude upon their private internal world, whose appeal is magnetic and addictive.Technology is a double edged sword, amazing but not without its serious ethical and philosophical dilemmas (which is the more real world the one within or without? etc), this movie doesn't delve into it conversation wise, it's lets everything play out, at five hours it gives you the credit that you can work it out for yourself.Not released in North America yet in its full form I think. It's really just a beautiful film to watch, that's much sweeter and gentler than most sci-fi, and more fascinating too because it doesn't shove its implications down your throat. Wim Wenders, got people like The Talking Heads, Can, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Elvis Costello, U2, Nick Cave, and many many more, to make original songs for the soundtrack about the new millennium.While many of the songs are very good, most are awkwardly placed as well. No doubt Wenders was really excited about all the music and just wanted to use everything. Understandable, though, if you could get all your favorite bands to make original music for your movie, wouldn't you use all the songs?Still its enthralling to hear such distinct music, laid against so many lovely backdrops, even if it doesn't all click. This is a road movie, for its first three and a half hours really, with the really sci-fi only picking up towards the end, and much of it is spent soaking up the global scenery, feasting with the eyes one last time, before the world is all burned away. The apocalyptic feel of the movie comes, from how desperate it seems to take in everything, as if Wenders really did think this was the last film ever. I can't imagine how this was released as anything but 5 hours, the plot is so subtle and languid, I couldn't imagine this functioning quicker. The big budget sci-fi bomb is a genre to itself, along with films like "Virus", "Brazil", "On The Silver Globe", "Zardoz", "Dune", "Quintet", "Southland Tales", and "The Fountain", "Until The End Of The World", is another case of when talented directors make balls to the wall, crazy sci fi. Definitely flawed, but a richly excessive and eccentric experiments and time capsule.Despite its hefty run time, I thought Wenders was sensitive, to the changing dynamics of the future world, it's not dystopian and it's not Star Trek/Fifth Element Space-Opera either, it occupies, a space, where simple good or bad, are no longer really relevant to discussion.At one point when everyone assumes the world has ended Sam Niel's character is playing in a small band with several Aboriginal neural scientists, a few french-bank robbers, a British bounty hunter, and some random strays who wandered into the Australian compound fearful of nuclear fallout, and they play a music that sounds like Australian Blue Grass; Didgeridoo's and pianos, harmonica's, and trumpets, blending together to create something singular and new. He notes to himself, "This entire trip hasn't been about helping a blind woman to see, or gazing into ourselves. But this adventure, the satellite, the machine, the crash, it all occurred, so we could be here, at this moment, to create this music which would have never otherwise existed, right at the crest of the end of the world". Few sci-fi films are dedicated to power of music (that the characters play), words(that Sam Neil records for his novel), and images(of coming war, of the beauty of the world, and the contours of our own mind/dream/souls,etc). In Alphaville when the computer asks Lemmy Caution, "What moves the night?", Caution responds, point blank, "Poetry".Wim Wenders updates, upgrades, and extends this concept for the new millennium.Though I cant remember too much of what was said, I'm still humming along days later, with some pretty pictures circulating in my head like post cards from an alternate universe. It's a bittersweet, love, travelogue, adventure story, for the New Millennium; "Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego?", as written by William Gibson on a sentimental day.

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