German director Wim Wenders' "Land of Plenty" provides a socially conscious view of poverty and paranoia in an America somewhat resembling the real one.
By JOSHUA TANZER
Like Lars von Trier's "Dogville," Wim Wenders' "Land of Plenty" is a critical broadside about America that no American would have made. It's a caricature that indicts, if not our actual country, then a rather similar country that an outsider imagines America to be.
One of the movie's two central characters, Lana, is a nomadic young American woman returning to the U.S. after two years doing volunteer work in Israel. A minister who once worked with her missionary father and now runs a shelter in Los Angeles picks her up at the airport and drives her along the homeless-lined streets.
|LAND OF PLENTY|
|Directed by: Wim Wenders.|
Written by: Scott Derricksonm Michael Meredith, Wim Wenders.
Cast: Michelle Williams, John Diehl, Shaun Toub, Wendell Pierce, Richard Edson, Burt Young, Yuri Elvin, Jeris Poindexter, Rhonda Stubbins White, Bernard White.
Cinematography: Franz Lustig.
Edited by: Moritz Laube.
Related links: Official site
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"I had no idea," says a stunned Lana (Michelle Williams). "The last thing they talk about in the West Bank is poverty in America."
"Last thing they talk about in the West Wing is poverty in America," the minister (Wendell Pierce of "The Wire") retorts.
The last thing they talk about in American movies, as well, is poverty in America, so we have the German Wenders to paint a certain kind of picture for us. In this country, the streets are not only dotted with homeless people but lined with them, shoulder to shoulder. In this version of the country, patriotic but possibly schizophrenic vigilantes cruise around with guns and eavesdropping equipment looking for asses to kick.|
The wiggy vigilante in this case is Paul (John Diehl), and Lana, a niece he's hardly ever known, has come to the U.S. to bring him a letter from her dying mother abroad. Paul has been estranged from his family because he's basically estranged from everyone recognizing his own precarious mental state, he avoids everyone but his assistant Jimmy (the great Richard Edson), as he tracks down real or imagined evildoers in our midst.
More revelations about America await, as these standoffish characters let one another into their messed-up lives just a little. A grim (if slightly random) incident at the homeless shelter drives them closer together and sends them on a quest into the desert. Hoping to root out the perpetrators of a terrorist attack, they find something surprising and revealing out there in a stark, all-American landscape of sand, service stations and trailers.|
Wenders' origins on the other side of the Atlantic provide a somewhat skewed angle from which to hold a mirror up to America, but as with any caricature, "Land of Plenty" grows from some element of truth. What we're meant to take home is a message make that a "Message" with a capital "M." Poverty is Serious. Security Is Becoming a Bit of an Obsession. We Need to Get Out of Our Cars and Meet Each Other Once in a While. All true in their way; all a bit exaggerated in this film.
|OCTOBER 10, 2005|
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