Alice in the Cities

Synopsis: German journalist Philip Winter has a case of writer's block when trying to write an article about the United States. He decides to return to Germany, and while trying to book a flight, encounters a German woman and her nine year old daughter Alice doing the same. The three become friends (almost out of necessity) and while the mother asks Winter to mind Alice temporarily, it quickly becomes apparent that Alice will be his responsibility for longer than he expected. After returning to Europe, the innocent friendship between Winter and Alice grows as they travel together through various European cities on a quest for Alice's grandmother.
Genre: Drama
Director(s): Wim Wenders
Production: Pacific Arts
  1 win & 1 nomination.
Rotten Tomatoes:
110 min

ALICE IN THE CITIES They never really show what it was you saw. Blowing away everything you can't stand. Talking to yourself - that's actually more like listening than speaking. l've never heard the ending. l'm not finished yet. l took lots of photos and notes, l have enough material. You weren't supposed to take photos; just write a story. Yes, l know. But the story's about things you see - about signs and images. You've been on the road for four weeks and all you have is a pile of pictures. You were supposed to write, man. Photos, l could have gotten anywhere. You were supposed to write about the American scene. l keep getting telexes from the publisher. l look like a fool. So how about it? l'm not finished yet, that's all. When you drive across America something happens because of all the images you see. The reason l took so many photos is part of the story. l can't explain it right now. Tell that to the publisher. You missed the deadline as far as l'm concerned. l'll finish the story in Germany. l'm flying there today. Do you have money for a ticket? Just enough for one ticket. But maybe you could give me an advance anyway. My dear friend, you'll get sweet nothing. And take your picture postcards. l'll tell the publisher you'll be in Munich, and then l'm through with it. Because of the strike. But l didn't know there weren't any planes to Germany. But l must return today. She said we can go to Amsterdam. Of all places. l was there long enough. lt's the only way. When's the next flight? Tomorrow afternoon. We can't fly until tomorrow and only to Amsterdam. We haven't been there in ages. Are you from Holland? We used to live there. Could you book a flight for me? My English is so bad. First name. Won't you wait with us? l don't know if l could stand it otherwise. Sure, but l'm not very entertaining. You could be dumb for all l care. What does he want from us? What do you have against him? Don't you think he's nice? l don't have anything against him, but what is he after? He helped us at the travel office. You could act a bit nicer. lf you spoke English, things would be easy. That was quick. - No one answered. - Who didn't answer? - Did you make up your mind? - Not a hamburger! - What then? - A hot dog! l hope the hotel isn't expensive. No, l used to stay there myself. Why are you so eager to get away? l just want to go back to Germany. l just split up with a man. l don't want to talk about it now. - l'll see you tomorrow. At the airport. - And breakfast? OK. l'll call you here tomorrow morning. For sure? l rang up a few times. Aren't you feeling well? No. l made a mess of things. lt was a horrible trip. Soon as you leave New York, nothing changes any more. Everything looks the same. You can't think any more, especially the thought that things could ever change. l completely lost my bearings. l thought it would go on forever. Some evenings, l was sure l would turn back the next morning. But then l would keep on going and listening to that sickening radio. At night in the motel, which looked like all the others l'd watch that inhuman TV. l lost touch with the world. You did that long ago. You don't have to travel across America for that. You lose touch when you lose your sense of identity. And that is long gone. That's why you always need proof, proof that you still exist. Your stories and your experiences - you treat them like raw eggs. As if only you experience things. And that's why you keep taking those photos. For further proof that it was really you who saw something. That's why you came here. So somebody would listen to you and the stories that you're really telling yourself. That's not enough in the long run, my dear... True. Taking Polaroids does have something to do with proof. Waiting for a picture to develop, l'd often feel strangely ill at ease. l could hardly wait to compare the finished picture with reality. But even comparing them wouldn't calm me. The pictures never caught up with reality. You can't stay here. l went on as if l were possessed. You really are out of touch. You can't stay, understand? Are you serious? Yes, my friend. l can't help you. l'd like to comfort you, though. l don't get it. l don't get how to live either. No one showed me how. When you come to an intersection in this city, it's like coming to a clearing in the woods. l have to get a room here, too. - Look. - My friends... l'll bet you l can blow it out. Never. Watch. Show me your watch. You cheated! Just for that you have to go up there with me. Go to bed now. You can stay here with us. There's plenty of room. ln the past two years, we lived in four different cities. Where? Now he's worked here for three months and wants to stay in America. But l don't think he believes l'm serious. He probably thinks l'll come home this evening, cry, and then Mommy be OK again. lsn't he Alice's father? Alice told me a joke at lunch. Heard this one? Do you know how to fit four elephants into a red VW? l can't sleep with you, but l'd like to share the bed with you. What are you writing? The inhuman thing about American TV is not so much that they hack everything up with commercials, though that's bad enough, but in the end all programmes become commercials. Commercials for the status quo. Every image radiates the same disgusting and nauseating message. A kind of boastful contempt. Not one image leaves you in peace, they all want something from you. When l told Hans l wanted to leave him he said everything'll be fine once we get an apartment in New York. lf he wants you, he should go with you. He says he'd rather kill himself. l'll be on top of the Empire State Building at 1:00 pm. Your jacket is way too big. What have you got in there? Hot dogs? Now l get it. l guess we don't have to wait here any longer. Do you have another dime for me? No. We have to go back to the hotel. lsn't Mommy coming any more? Hey! You can't do that. The lady left the hotel an hour ago. l can't go yet. Hans is hysterical. l can't leave him alone. Please take Alice with you or l'll never get away. See you in Amsterdam, day after tomorrow. Who wrote to you? - Your mother. - What did she say? That she'll catch up with us in Amsterdam. l saw all this the day we arrived. Do you have all you need in that suitcase? Do you like flying? l like the food it's wrapped up so nicely. l've been looking all over for you. Couldn't you get me something to eat? We've got to go. That's our flight. Are you glad to be going home? l don't know. l'd just as soon stay in New York. Why don't you then? No more money left, that's why. There's nothing on it. Wait a few minutes. Then it will appear real clear. What did you ask the stewardess? l asked for an aspirin. Mommy gets her headaches even before the flight. Maybe l should've eaten something. See! That's a lovely picture. It's so empty. ls there an ''L''? ls there an ''E''? Yes. Only one? Yes. One ''E''. It isn't ''CREEP''. ls there an ''H''? No. - An ''F''? Oh, l said that already. - Yes, you did say that. ls there an ''O''? No. One more mark and you're hanged. "I"?. Nope. What's the word, then? Dream. Dream. Those words don't count. Only things that really exist. Why do they have different time here? You can see why. It's broad daylight. At midnight? Believe me it's five in the morning. Do we go to sleep again? At the hotel nearest the airport. No matter what it costs. l'm not tired any more. l'm sure l can't go to sleep. When do you want me to wake you? At eleven. Yes, thank you. Can l use your toothbrush? lf you don't mind. Let's go into town and buy one. For a toothbrush? You're nuts. Do you want to stay in the hotel? Yes. l could show you the city. l used to live here, you know? l had a funny dream. l turned on the TV set and l sat down in a chair. l tied myself to it and then suddenly a scary movie came on. l couldn't untie myself. l couldn't turn off the TV. l couldn't close my eyes, either. l couldn't untie myself. So l had to watch the film. Tell me something about yourself. l wouldn't know what. You really don't know anything that you could tell me? How old are you? l want to take a picture of you. So you'll at least know what you look like. Will you take a picture of Mommy when she arrives at the airport? We'll have to get up early. At the next stop, we're going to get off again. But the tour isn't over yet. You haven't seen anything. l don't want to see anything. - Let's get back to the hotel. - l'm hungry. You walk too fast. l find Amsterdam much prettier than New York. Maybe. Food! You never think about anything else. l want to eat! Do we have to eat in such a cheap restaurant? l hardly have any money left. Then why are we staying in such an expensive hotel? Because it's right next to the airport. lt's all in Dutch. l can't read it. You're a big help. You wanted me to read it. l don't want to eat here. lt was you who wanted to eat. l wanted to eat but not just anything. - What then? - Something decent. Listen, l'm in no mood to be bugged by you. Because of you, l'm running around in circles. That's not my fault. You're stupid, you are. Sourpuss! You'll be glad to get rid of me, won't you? Don't be so silly. Come on, l'll read to you. l can read by myself. Do you leave the light on at night? Why, what do you mean? Do you want a light on? Yes. l can't sleep without a light on. l'll leave on the bathroom light and the door open a crack. What's the matter? Fear. What kind of fear? Are there different kinds? Yes. l'm afraid of fear. Why are you afraid of that? Why? Aren't you cold? Could you dry yourself in the other room? l need the loo. What are the matches for? So it won't stink. The passengers from New York disembarked long ago. Your mother wasn't on the passenger list. Let's go to the information desk then we'll decide what to do. ls that your little girl in there? She's been crying her eyes out. lt's all right for you to come in. Open up. Alice, please come out. Why didn't she come? She'll be on the next plane for sure. We'll go to information. They'll take care of it. What will they take care of? - They'll help you. - You just want to get rid of me. But, Alice, l can't wait here forever for your mother to come. But you expect me to. Where else do you want to go? l don't know. Didn't you want to visit your grandmother? Yes. - Where does she live? - l don't know. - You must be able to remember. - l can, too. You see. Well, then? Now it slipped my mind. Do you know which town at least? l've forgotten the name. Maybe she lives in Frankfurt. No. l'm already at ''W''. In Wiesbaden? ln Wuppertal? And where in Wuppertal? l don't know exactly, but l'll find it when we get there. How do you want your hair? Alice tell the barber not to cut it too short just to layer the ends. Don't make it too short. He wants... ''Layer the ends''? l don't understand. He wants it thinned? - l think it's thin enough. - Should l wash his hair? - That's a good idea. - What did he say? Nothing. When does our bus leave? At four. Alice, please, you must know your grandmother's name. lsn't it Van Dam? That's my name. Grandma's is different. What is your mother's maiden name? What was her name before she got married? l don't know. But l know where Grandma lives. l'll show you when we pass it. Come on, Alice. It's almost dark. We have to find a hotel. We'll carry on tomorrow. Stop crying. Alice, don't let it get you down. We've hardly begun to look. - We'll go to the city registry tomorrow. - But l don't know the name! Will you tell me a story? l don't know any stories. Once upon a time there was a man... - Where did you get that radio? - l swapped it with the girl on the bus. Once there was a little boy who got lost. He went for a walk in the woods with his mother one lovely summer afternoon. And, as they came to a clearing, there was sunshine. His mother suddenly felt tired and wanted to rest. All of a sudden the little boy heard a rustling in the bushes and he found a hedgehog. He ran after the hedgehog until he came to a stream. And in the stream he saw a fish. He ran along the edge of the stream until he saw a bridge. On the bridge he saw a horseman... And then? The horseman sat very calmly on his horse and looked off into the distance. So the boy went onto the bridge and carefully walked around the horse. The rider rode slowly away and the boy ran after him until he lost sight of him. Then he came to a highway with lots of trucks driving along it. The boy sat at the roadside until a truck stopped. The driver asked him if he'd like a lift. The boy was delighted and sat proudly next to the driver, who let him fiddle with the radio. And the boy rode as far as the sea. And at the sea he remembered his mother again. Alice? That's not the way l like my cornflakes. They're already soggy. l want to pour the milk myself. Bring her another bowl and a tea for me. l rented a car so we can drive around. That way, we'll surely find the house. Once l see it l'll recognize it. - What kind of car? - A Renault. A big one? l thought you had no more money. l found some expired Eurocheques. They didn't notice at the car rental. Where's that from? What? l forgot to hand it in. What did the house look like? lt was old. There were trees. Nothing else you'd remember? The stairway was dark. The car's vibrating. What's green and hops from tree to tree? Pay attention. You'll never guess. Watch for the house. School is out. That's the street where our hotel is. So? l'm thirsty. - A coffee for me. - l want something too. - Then order something. - A large ice cream. With whipped cream? - l thought you were thirsty. - l'd rather have ice cream. Grandma never lived in Wuppertal. Oh, terrific. Why didn't you say that before? Do you think l'm crazy about driving little girls around and spending my last dime? l have better things to do. l told you l wanted to stay in Amsterdam. What is it you've got to do? All you ever do is scribble away in your notebook. l'm taking you to the police. They can help you better than l can. Sign here, please. ln case there are any questions, can you be reached at this hotel? lf you leave, please let me know where you'll be. Excuse me you took my pen. Take care of yourself. They'll find your grandma. Or your mother. Now l know where Grandma lives. You do? Then we'd better get out of here. Yes. A policeman came looking for me just now, but l stayed on the other side of the street. Yeech, that food they gave me at the police station! When the policemen were questioning me, l remembered that Mommy and l used to live in Wuppertal when l was little. Not Grandma. The police looked it up and l was right. And Mommy's name wasn't Van Dam, but Krueger. And then l remembered - l told this to the police - that we always took the train to visit Grandma. lt couldn't have been very far because we always got back the same night. And when Grandma read to me the pages rustled as she turned them because tiny bits of coal came through the window. And then the policemen said it was very simple - Grandma lived in the Ruhr district. The Ruhr district. ls that big? Not particularly. We'll manage it. l was at a rock and roll concert. Chuck Berry was singing. Ever hear of him? l think so. Do you like rock and roll? Yes. Slept enough? Scribbling again? Here's your breakfast. And that's the Ruhr district. There are a lot of ''Kruegers'', so we'll have to know your grandma's first name. Grandma. Didn't l show you the photo? What photo? l didn't show it to the police and l forgot about it. That makes things very easy. Of course. - Do you know the Ruhr district? - Yes. l lived here as a kid. l went to school here. But l haven't been back for nine or ten years. You haven't seen your parents for that long? Oh, sure. l see them sometimes. - But they no longer live there. - Where, then? On the other side of the Rhine. On the lower Rhine. Where are we going first? Essen. Good, l'm hungry. Doesn't it ring a bell? No. We'll just ask everybody if they know the house. Excuse me. Do you recognize this house? Could it be around here? l don't know. lt's not here. All these old houses are going to be pulled down so Krupp can build a new hospital... Thanks. lt's too bad these lovely old houses have to be wrecked. They don't bring enough rent. The empty spaces look like graves. ''House graves.'' Have any of you seen this house? Let's ask the cab driver. He should know. Do you know where this house is? l don't know. Definitely not in Duisburg. Maybe in Oberhausen. Hey, wait! - It could be in Gelsenkirchen. - Thanks. On Erdbrueckenstrasse. Erdbrueckenstrasse. Next time it's bound to be in Hamburg. Where are we going first? To Oberhausen or Gelsenkirchen? First to Oberhausen. Grandma's place looked like this, only it had two storeys. You got a girlfriend? l feel like going swimming. How about you? The water's probably dirty here. Do you want to stay in the back? Yes. It's more comfortable. - Which city are we in? - Gelsenkirchen. In Erdbrueckenstrasse. This must be it. l like these. At the police station, l couldn't laugh. - Did they take pictures of you? - Of course. - Stop! That's it! - What? Unbelievable! An Italian woman lives there. She said she's been there for two years. She doesn't know anything about Grandma. At least we can go swimming now. You moron! You dirty dog! Fish face! Bed pisser! - Pukehead! - Stupid cow! Nanny goat! - Knucklehead! - Old hen! Nerve-wracking yak-yak! l wonder if people take you to be my father? Me? Why? l don't know. What else could they think? l'll ask that lady over there. Oh, no, you don't! Do you think he's my father? Never! No way. See? She doesn't think so. And why not? Why not? - He's too fat. - And he always pulls his nose. And he snores, too. He's probably got flat feet. And he's stone broke. Can't even afford a decent meal. You little liar. You eat nothing but hot dogs, anyway. Are you hungry? Just what we needed. An invitation to dinner. That greedy brat. You act like you really were her father. True. That's what she's done to me. Unfortunately, the other bed is slightly lower. That's dumb. Will you get up? At this hour? Yes. Please! lt's only six. Are you nuts? Did you sleep well? Wouldn't you have rather slept alone? The couch was already occupied. You were there first. What did you dream about? l'll tell you later. Where to now? l haven't got enough money for gas. We'll go to my parents. l'm thirsty. Stop at the next kiosk, will you? Nine-year-old girl sought by police. To help find her parents, a young man brought Alice Van Dam to police headquarters yesterday. Left unobserved the child ran away!. The blonde, nine-year-old girl was wearing a blue Alaska jacket. How far is it to your parents'? Just across the Rhine. We'll take the ferry. You haven't taken any pictures for a long time. Since Amsterdam. Looking forward to seeing your parents? May l? There's nothing on it. Just wait. You'd better explain all of this to me. What? Why didn't you report back to the police? After all you brought the kid in yourself. What? Yeah, you didn't come back. The police have known since yesterday where the grandmother lives. And the mother showed up, too. Only you and the child vanished. - How do you know all that? - l just spoke with headquarters. l've got orders to take the child to the nearest train station and put her on a train to Munich. - Is that so? - Yes? l'll take the girl in my car. Tail me. How old are you? Nine. Got a ticket? Did you take the car back? Did you get some money back? The cheque just covered it. For your ticket. What are you going to do in Munich? l'll finish this story. Your scribbling? And what'll you do?

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Wim Wenders

Ernst Wilhelm "Wim" Wenders (German: [vɪm vɛndɐs]; born 14 August 1945) is a German filmmaker, playwright, author, photographer, and a major figure in New German Cinema. Among many honors, he has received three nominations for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature: for Buena Vista Social Club (1999), about Cuban music culture, Pina (2011), about the contemporary dance choreographer Pina Bausch, and The Salt of the Earth (2014), about Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado. One of Wenders' earliest honors was a win for the BAFTA Award for Best Direction for his narrative drama Paris, Texas (1984), which also won the Palme d'Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival. Many of his subsequent films have also been recognized at Cannes, including Wings of Desire (1987), for which Wenders won the Best Director Award at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. Wenders has been the president of the European Film Academy in Berlin since 1996. Alongside filmmaking, he is an active photographer, emphasizing images of desolate landscapes. He is considered to be an auteur director. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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