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CANNES 2005 Official Competition

Wenders knocks on America’s door


Wenders knocks on America’s door

If one walks round the set of a western right in the middle of the Monumental Valley, he can read "Don't come knocking"on a small notice board hanging on the caravan of the actor Howard Spence (Sam Shepard). It will actually be him, fallen movie star, who will chuck it all in (naturally on horseback) to go and knock on the door of his own past.
We immediately notice that until now Howard led a life that a puritan would describe as a life of debauchery: alcohol, drugs, women, orgies, casino, fights, scandals of all types. When he takes refuge at his mother’s place who is more absent-minded than protective, Howard discovers that he has a child from an old affair. This is exactly what happens in Jarmush’s film, which is also competing in Cannes. In order to give sense to his life, Howard Spence starts to look for the woman he abandoned (Jessica Lange, Shepard’s wife for 23 years in the real life) and his son who is about twenty years old.

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Wenders comes back to Cannes where he went for the first time in 1976 to present his film Au fil du temps and where he has already been 9 times, once as President of the Jury. He comes back twenty years after the Palme d’or he received for Paris Texas, with a film on which he thought for a long time and which script he co-wrote with Sam Shepard took three years to write. The resemblances with Paris, Texas are numerous and those who will go and see Don't come knocking [+see also:
film profile
will recognize above all the fascinating beauty of the desert (and that of human beings of course).
The photography and the direction of the film are sensational and confirm the talent of the great German filmmaker. Big dimension panoramas, rural and city landscapes with intense colours, period buildings with brown and hot colours typical of American towns which evoke Edward Hopper’s paintings, an artist to whom Wenders owes a lot.
In those places that have been present in our imagination for more than a hundred years, since the cinema was born, Wenders moves his tormented characters. The cow-boy on the run such as Jessie James, with an auto-destructive behaviour as only antiheroes can have, embodies a modern man bare of all responsibilities, and who, at adulthood decides to deal with the sense of guilt. Wenders and Shepard put the theme of family breaking up at the center of the spectator’s attention and Shepard gets involved to the point of lending his own face, beautiful and hard, sun-scorched and wrinkled skin, who will be pushed aside by a woman who loved him but who perhaps cannot forgive him anymore.

Wenders refuses to give his political interpretation on the film, but many readings exist and under the typical theme of the family explodes that of United States’ crisis and with it the entire West. The film from which Shepard comes from is entitled "The Ghost of the West". A West that does not want to change, that does not want to admit its own mistakes and which is withdrawing itself, such as the symbolical character of the insurance broker acted by Tim Roth, who declares that: "Nothing changed since Inquisition". Deep down, something has changed, nowadays nobody shoots westerns. The great illusion of the past has become today’s great disillusion. It’s not for nothing that the most symbolical joke of the angelical Sarah Polley is: "I prefer cinema to real life". So do we, sometimes.

* Don't come knocking is produced by Reverse Angle Production and co-produced by Arte France Cinéma, Paradis Films and Océan Films (which distributes it). Jeremy Thomas’s Hanway Films will sell it.

(Translated from Italian)

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