Wim Wenders has been making films since he was a student in the late ’60s, and he’s still at them, in part because, more than most filmmakers, he’s been willing to adapt. Not only has he made documentaries in addition to fiction, he’s also been an early convert to video — his doc “Buena Vista Social Club,” from 2000, was one of the first all-digital features — and has been one of the precious few to use 3-D (in “Pina” and his latest film, the drama “Every Thing Will Be Fine”) for non-blockbuster reasons. The films too often involve travel, from his celebrated trilogy of road movies (“Alice in the Cities,” “Wrong Move” and “Kings of the Road,” made from 1974 to 1976) to his 1991 epic “Until the End of the World,” which hop-scotches across multiple continents.
Many of these will be screened in new DCP restorations over the next month at the IFC Center. “Wim Wenders: Portraits Along the Road” is not complete, but considering how many he’s made it’s close enough. And it includes not only the heavy-hitters but rarities as his early shorts and the nearly five-hour cut of “Until the End of the World,” his madly ambitious futuristic sci-fi-noir that was originally released in a 2 ½ hour cut he’s referred to as “Reader’s Digest version.”
Wenders sat down with Metro to talk about staying fresh by never feeling comfortable, the power of cinema over cities and, of course, rock and roll and pinball.
I was reading a book on New German Cinema from 1980, and it talks about you being most obsessed with rock and roll and pinball. Do you still feel that way?
1980? That’s when pinball was still relevant. They’re now only in boutiques. They’re not in bars anymore. Sometimes you find them in private homes. But they’re hard to maintain. I had a few over the years, but the problem is getting them serviced. No one knows how to do this anymore. It’s like editing tables, Steenbecks. No one knows how to repair them anymore. But I was a pinball wizard. I was the original pinball wizard. I made my living playing pinball. When I was a young student and poor, pinball was played for a round. I could drink for weeks every night without paying a single round because I was very good. I never lost at pinball.
Do you still have the same affinity for rock and roll? It’s hard to classify what rock and roll is these days.
I think rock and roll has remained and reinvented itself over the years, over and over again. I still listen to the old heroes. If they’re still producing I still get their records. But I’m just as interested in what new bands are doing.
Rock and roll is used really interestingly in your films. There’s Kenneth Anger’s revolutionary approach in the early ’60s, which was blasting music over the images. But in your films you show people listening to pop songs — on jukeboxes in “The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick” and others, or that scene in “The American Friend” of Bruno Ganz listening to The Kinks as he sweeps. Did that way of using music just come to you instinctually?
I think it was instinctual. One of the first movies that used rock and roll like this was “Easy Rider.” I was still a student then and I loved it. Music was a big part of what that film was about. And of course, I always felt films were very much dealing with time and the zeitgeist. Rock and roll was always part of that. It’s an ingredient. It’s still a huge part of my life, a huge creative influence.