Sunday, January 24, 2016

Review of 'Alice in the Cities'

Watched on the Middle Floor screen at Springhill Cohousing, on a DVD from the private collection of the incomparable George Platts. A really slow black and white film, in which nothing much seems to happen for a lot of the time, and yet is really engaging and moving.

A young German writer has been engaged to write a story about his travels across America, but has not managed to actually write anything. Instead he meanders aimlessly from motel to diner, taking pictures without people on a Polaroid camera. In New York he helps a young woman and her nine-year old daughter book a flight back to Amsterdam (the ground crews at German airports are on strike) and somehow ends up with the daughter but without the mother back in Europe. The mother doesn't turn up, and he ends up travelling around Germany trying to find the girl's grandmother, even though the girl doesn't seem to know her family name or any addresses.

It's very clear that the early 1970s were a very different time (lots of smoking, and no-one seems to think it's odd that a young man is looking after a little girl who is not a relative), but I'm not sure if the film is entirely realistic in this depiction. There's lots of stuff about alienation through technology - horrible television programs, tinny transistor radios, juke boxes - and about the penetration of American culture into Europe, which is clearly not a good thing. But looking after the girl redeems the young man, who seems to reconnect with people again, something he has unlearned in America.

After the film we discussed it for almost an hour, and everyone seemed to have noticed something different. Well worth watching.

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