5 Reasons TIFF’s Wim Wenders Retrospective Is Essential Viewing

For those looking to open their mind to the wonders of international cinema, there’s no better place to start than ’70s Germany. The New German Cinema movement introduced the world to a group of passionate, inspired filmmaking greats, including Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, Volker Schlöndorff, and Margarethe von Trotta. While that list includes several certified filmmaking geniuses, the best place to start is probably Wim Wenders, the New German auteur most indebted to Hollywood cinema. (Those suffering from a fear of subtitles will appreciate the fact that many of his seminal films are at least partly in English.)

For the next two months, Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox is hosting On the Road: The Films of Wim Wenders, offering anyone rightly curious about the director’s work a chance to see his most essential films on the big screen. This is one retrospective you can’t afford to miss—and here are five reasons why.

1. Greatness restored

The American Friend

While digital projection is not the preferred screening format of most cinephiles, Wenders’ films have been plagued by a dearth of good prints. As a result, several years have been spent subjecting these films to thorough digital restorations, returning them to something approximating their original glory.

2. No film is too short

Reverse Angle (1982)

Even devoted Wenders fans are likely to make some new discoveries during this retrospective, as TIFF is screening six of the director’s “ultra-rare” shorts on February 4th.

3. No film is too long


On the other end of the length spectrum, TIFF is offering an opportunity to watch the full 295-minute cut of 1991’s Until the End of the World. Nearly twice as long as the version released in North American theatres, this elusive cut promises to flesh out the film’s esoteric sci-fi flourishes.

4. Genre influences


Genre film buffs should find plenty to enjoy in a companion program comprised of classic films that helped shape Wenders’ cinematic sensibilities. Highlights include 35mm prints of several noir (or neo-noir) classics (Breathless, In a Lonely Place, The Naked Kiss, Strangers on a Train, The Woman in the Window) and one giant of arthouse science fiction (Stalker).

5. Song and dance


Like New German Cinema peer Werner Herzog, most of Wenders’ late career success has come in the documentary form. While this retrospective focuses on his early work, TIFF makes an exception for two documentary triumphs: 1999’s Buena Vista Social Club and 2011’s Pina, a 3D tribute to dance great Pina Bausch.

On the Road: The Films of Wim Wenders begins tonight with a screening of The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick and runs until March 6th. For showtimes, tickets, and more, go to TIFF.net.