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  Until the End of the World It's Better To Travel
Year: 1991
Director: Wim Wenders
Stars: William Hurt, Solveig Dommartin, Sam Neill, Rüdiger Vogler, Max von Sydow, Jeanne Moreau, Chick Ortega, Ernie Dingo, Lois Chiles, David Gulpilil, Paul Livingston, Bart Willoughby, Justine Saunders, Charlie McMahon, Allen Garfield, Chishu Ryu, Alfred Lynch
Genre: Drama, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: It is during the last weeks of the year 1999 that Claire Tourneur (Solveig Dommartin) just had to get away from her boyfriend Eugene (Sam Neill), so is driving around Europe with only her computer navigation for company. There is an Indian nuclear satellite flying overhead that has malfunctioned, and looks set to crash, causing a lot of devastation, so the roads are jammed with people trying to get out of the way of the possible impact sites. Claire loses patience and decides to take a back road the computer warns her it knows nothing of, and while she is driving along a country highway, her windscreen is smashed by the driver of the car up ahead absently throwing his bottle out of his side window, ending up with Claire and the other vehicle crashing. There are no serious injuries, but Claire's car is the only one which survives and she gives the other driver and his passenger a lift to the nearest town. That night, she finds out that they have a large stash of cash thanks to a recent bank robbery, and invite her to take their money to safety...

Remember in the final years of the twentieth century and everyone thought the world was going to end? Well, perhaps not everyone, but there was a millennial tension in the air and Until the End of the World seemed to be attempting to exploit this sense of global union in unease about the future. It was over a decade in the making, inspired by an idea from director Wim Wenders and star Dommartin and written by Wenders, novelist Peter Carey and director in his own right, Michael Almereyda, and originally about eight hours long until a contract stipulated it should be edited to under three. There is still more than one version, but the two and half hour work is the most widely seen. However, when it was first released it was considered a career damaging disappointment, and it could be argued Wenders' standing in the world of cinema never really recovered after this.

That's not to say it's a bad film, as the first half is not bad at all, part travelogue and part road movie as a love triangle develops - in fact, it could be argued that a love square is depicted. Claire meets a hitchhiker on her way home, a man calling himself Trevor McPhee (William Hurt) who is being chased for reasons unclear, reasons he's unwilling to elucidate on at any rate. After he has bid Claire goodbye, she realises that he has stolen some of the pilfered cash she was transporting, and she hires a private detective, Phillip Winter (Rüdiger Vogler), to help track him down. The detective becomes quite smitten with Claire, and as Eugene hangs on to what may well be a deteriorating relationship, Trevor is found by her. In Japan.

It's this film's proud boast that it was shot on almost every continent - only Africa, Antarctica and South America missed out, though not for want of trying - and Wenders certainly takes advantage of his extensive location shooting. The chase around the world has a light, airy mood and is quite captivating, keeping its secrets along the way as the main characters visit Europe, North America and Asia, but when the time comes to settle down, it's clear this film is like a shark, when it stops moving it dies. Maybe not dies exactly, but once Australia is reached in the final hour all momentum grinds to a halt. It turns out that Trevor, or Sam Farber as he is really called, has been travelling the world to capture images for a special camera designed by his professor father (Max von Sydow). Why? Because the images can be planted into the brains of the blind, enabling them to see and Sam's mother (Jeanne Moreau) could benefit. More than that, it can also record dreams, but by the time we discover this the story has been bogged down in father/son reconciliations and all that breeziness is lost. Not even the potent idea that all of civilisation has been destroyed outside the Farbers' Outback lab can save it. Music by Graeme Revell, and a bunch of unsurprising artists contribute songs to the soundtrack.

[The Metrodome Region 2 DVD is the shortest version, with the trailer and an essay as special features.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Wim Wenders  (1945 - )

German director and writer and one of modern cinema's most important European filmmakers. Wenders films tend to blend social commentary with genre material - thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy. It was his acclaimed "road movies" of the mid-seventies - Alice in the Cities, Wrong Move and the epic Kings of the Road that first brought him international attention. 1977's The American Friend was a post-modern thriller starring Bruno Ganz, and although the making of Hammett was a difficult experience, he won his greatest acclaim for the moving drama Paris, Texas, written by Sam Shepherd.

1987's Wings of Desire was another triumph, and if he's yet to equal those classics, subsequent work has at least been a series of fascinating failures. Until the End of the World was an ambitious sci-fi piece, Faraway, So Close sequalised Wings of Desire, while The End of Violence, Million Dollar Hotel and Land of Plenty were dark, offbeat dramas. Wenders' film Don't Come Knocking was written by and starring Sam Shepherd, while Submergence was a globetrotting romance based on a bestselling novel. His best recent work have in fact been documentaries, including the The Soul of a Man for Martin Scorsese's Blues series and the Oscar-nominated Buena Vista Social Club.

 
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