Nicholas Ray, Wim Wenders

Scen.: Nicholas Ray, Wim Wenders. F.: Ed Lachman, Martin Schäfer. M.: Peter Przygodda, Wim Wenders. Mus.: Ronee Blakley. Int.: Nicholas Ray, Wim Wenders, Ronee Blakley, Pierre Cottrell, Tom Farrell, Stephan Czapsky, Mitch Dubin, Becky Johnston. Prod.: Renée Gundelach per Road Movies Filmproduktion, Wim Wenders Produktion, Viking Film. DCP. Col. 

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Late one night, or perhaps early one morning, a taxi deposits a man by a doorway in downtown Manhattan. The man is wearing an overcoat… but he is not a professional killer paid to assassinate someone he does not know: it is Wim Wenders, who has arrived at the house of Nick Ray to shoot a film about the last weeks of his life (or rather the last hours, but in the cinema everything is measured in weeks). Just as all films about life inevitably end up evoking the idea of death, this film about death throws open all its doors and windows to a world of great vitality. This is simply a nostalgia for life while it is still being lived – simulation, performance, fiction. And so the film proceeds step-by-step with the onset of death (this time truly on the job), on 35mm and on video, in a kind of natural and perpetual alternation between exterior-interior. Wenders – and we with him – gradually becomes accustomed to the feeling of death and the oh-so-simple idea that even those of us who are making or watching the film are mortal. And so, bring on the Chinese junks that materialise from Nick’s regressive fantasies! Bring on Nick joyously spitting into the microphone! Or Robert Mitchum hobbling back home from a rodeo (a breat-taking sequence, as sublime as anything by Mizoguchi); or Nick being sweet to some college students (who knows what they really know about him, probably little or nothing, but it does not matter); or the disarming sight of Nick being so understanding with those who marginalised him, with the Hollywood that made his work and his life so difficult. Indeed, Nick, like all the directors I love, was even sympathetic towards the bad guys in his films.
I wonder why everything you see and hear in this film moved me so deeply. Nick is surrounded by friends, loved ones, memories; while Wim is terribly alone, silently blending into the décor… Sam Spade has realised that he is filming something which has never been filmed before – that which Proust, in his final words, called “l’immense frivolité des mourants”.

Bernardo Bertolucci

Copy From

Contributed by
Contributed by

Restored in 4K in 2023 by courtesy of Wim Wenders Stiftung at BASIS Berlin Postproduktion laboratory, using the original negative. Fundings provided by The Film Foundation and Förderprogramm Filmerbe (FFE)