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Wings of Desire
BLU-RAY disk
Nov 23, 2009 By: Mathew Plale
Wings of Desire order
Director:
Wim Wenders

Actors:
Bruno Ganz
Otto Sander
Solveig Dommartin

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
In divided Berlin, two angels (Ganz, Sander) wander the city, instilling hope to the lonely, depressed, and confused. But when one falls in love with a mortal female, he finds himself wishing to live among the people.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
The pair of angels in Wim Wenders Wings of Desire have been here forever--before Berlin and before the living. They spend their days observing the people of the divided city, reading their thoughts and instilling a sense of optimism where need be. They behave as one would expect angels to (providing, of course, one believes): as a guardian who, with just his palm, can provide sanguinity in the most desperate of people.

Only children can see them, perhaps because they are still filled with curiosity and hope. Most of the adults depicted are full of woe, unsure about their lovers, their children, and themselves. Some ponder suicide. One commits. This pain is all a risk one of the angels, Damiel (Bruno Ganz), will take when he lays eyes on Marion (Solveig Dommartin), a lonely trapeze artist with angel wings for a costume.

A question raised by Wenders is, what happens when the immortal wishes to be mortal and to experience the Now and not the Eternity? One thing, we learn, is that the world becomes uglier with this newfound color. The intended feeling is that Damiels world is now more vibrant and filled with life that he is mortal and in love. But when Wenders and his cinematographer, Henri Alekan (Jean Cocteaus Beauty and the Beast), paint both Berlin and Damiel with colors better saved for the circus after photographing the city and its inhabitants in pristine black-and-white, they demonstrate just how quickly a gorgeous work of art can be abolished for a sappy cartoon.

There are other problems in the final half-hour of Wings of Desire than just the devastating Crayola spill. Its here that Wenders misplaces the meaning of the picture and that the viewer could reasonably ask, Whats the point of it all? What begins as a meditative and human work of beauty and poetry molds itself into a demonstration on how Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are the most universal aphrodisiac. All the while, the other angel, Cassiel (Otto Sander), is shoved to the side, even after a devastating moment with a suicidal man, a short scene that seemingly posed too much of a threat to the silly romance plotline that encompasses the final act.

Most of this review has been negative. This isnt because I find the film bad as a whole. Its a remarkable and daring experiment by Wenders, and one that I, like many others, admire greatly. But its not fair to relish praise on 127 of a film when only 90 are worthy of it.

The final text on the screen reads: To be continued. And it is. Wenders directed a sequel in 1993 titled Faraway, So Close! (maybe youve heard the U2 song), but I cannot bring myself to see it, just as I often find myself unable to watch the final half-hour of Wings of Desire. It feels more complete without either.
THE EXTRAS
Audio Commentary featuring Director Wim Wenders and Actor Peter Falk: This track has been edited greatly (by independent DVD producer Mark Rance) from over six hours of interviews with the two, conducted in 1996 and 97. As it were, this is not an ideal track, as it feels a bit unnatural and covers a lot of information covered in the other special features.

The Angels Among Us (43:09): This 2003 documentary uses interviews with Wenders, co-writer Peter Handke, actors Falk, Bruno Ganz, and Otto Sander, and others to provide a detailed background on Wings of Desire. Topics of focus include the storys evolution, casting, the visual style (namely B&W), the costumes, Jrgen Kniepers score, the films legacy, and much more. An essential watch.

Cinma Cinmas (9:24): This episode of the French television program, titled Wim Wender Berlin Jan. 87, features footage from the set of Wings of Desire as well as commentary from Wenders.

Deleted Scenes and Outtakes: There are nine deleted scenes, all accompanied with comments from Wenders, who explains the leftover shots for viewers. The outtakes are only viewable with music.

Alekan 85 (10:16): In these interview excerpts from 1985, cinematographer Henri Alekan sits down to discuss his work, his methods for lighting, his format preferences, and more. Fascinating insight from one of the great cinematographers.

Alekan la Lumire (27:11): These excerpts from Michel Dumoulins 1985 documentary of the same name also features Henri Alekan, who expounds further on his methods. This piece is an improvement over the last, as it shows Alekan at work and could be used as a valuable study piece for aspiring cinematographers.

Remembrance (29:42): This addition uses excerpts from a 1982 film directed by Wings of Desire stars Ganz and Sander. In the doc, Ganz and Sander pay tribute to German movie star Curt Bois, who plays Homer in Wings of Desire. A personal look at life and career of the man behind one of the films more intriguing characters.

Also on this disc are a Gallery and Trailers.

Also included with this Criterion Collection Blu-ray is a 28-page booklet with a poem by co-writer Peter Handke, an essay titled Watch the Skies by film critic Michael Atkinson, and an attempted description by director Wim Wenders.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Third act problems aside, Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire is a truly beautiful film. In regards to the picture quality, the Criterion Collection proves yet again what the standard for 1080p black-and-white should be. The disc also features several great documentaries that will make any fan eager to purchase.
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