The meditative, elegiac Wings of Desire was the capper to a string of brilliant work by German filmmaker Wenders, the transition point between films that were largely realistic and interested in the poetry of mundane life and later work that is often sprawling, grandiose, and nearly incoherent.
Made before the obsession with angelic imagery that bloomed in the '90s, Wings imagines the heavenly watchers in a haunting, unusual way. Wenders' angels are somber, overcoat-wearing men and women whose job is less to intervene than to bear witness. They walk unseen among us and stand guard far overhead, hearing our most private, soul-searching thoughts as if we spoke them aloud. Their power is an ability to communicate empathy without making themselves known to us - a power, come to think of it, that Wenders demonstrated himself quite beautifully in Paris, Texas.
One of these angels, a soulful wanderer played by Bruno Ganz, falls in love with a human. Eternal life, intimately aware of humanity but not connected to it, has become a burden, and he decides to shed it. That's the extent of the plot, such as it is. But Wings is less concerned with action than with the magic of being alive, and of wonder. The poetry of Rilke, the warmth of coffee and cigarettes, the shabby, conspiratorial enigma of an actor famous for playing a detective on American television. It is a singular, transcendent, but bittersweet joy, a handful of mysteries and answers that relishes what is in between them all. JD
Wings of Desire screens Tuesday, September 9 as part of Texas Public Radio's "Cinema Tuesdays" series. 7:30pm at AMC Huebner Oaks, admission $10 members/$12 non-members, 614-8977 or tpr.org for reservations. Wings of Desire is also available on DVD from MGM.
Amanecer de Mesoamerica and Paisaje de Piramides screen at the Instituto de México, 600 HemisFair Park, at 4pm on Sunday, September 7. Info: 227-0130. •