(Wim Wenders, USA, 1982)


Film history goes something like this. Once upon a time, Hollywood directors told innocent, self-conscious stories about gangsters, pirates, lovers and liars.

Then came the new cinemas of France and Germany in the ’60s and ’70s, in which characters sadly recognised the gap between their tawdry real lives and the unreal Hollywood images they loved.

Then everything became confused, so that while American-born Martin Scorsese and his comrades strived to make films in the European style, German wunderkind Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas, 1984) longed to travel to America and make a "real" Hollywood film.

Hammett is the prime result of such confusion: a dreamy fiction-within-a-fiction that insinuates a writer (Fredric Forrest as Dashiell Hammett) into the labyrinthine, iconic world of his own stories. The problems of the film were exacerbated by a particularly fraught and divided production process – this is said to be Coppola’s version rather than Wenders’ – but it’s hard to tell, from what remains, in which fresh direction this material could have been taken.

MORE Wenders: The Blues, The Brothers Skladanowsky, Buena Vista Social Club, The End of Violence, Land of Plenty, The Million Dollar Hotel, Alice in the Cities, Wings of Desire

© Adrian Martin January 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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