Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

People We Like: Bruno Ganz

What an exciting time the '70s were, seeing the rise and rise of all these new actors, writers and directors. What would Scorsese, Spielberg, Schrader come up with next?, or Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Richard Gere. Among the most interesting European actors was Swiss Bruno Ganz, born in 1941 and after years in the theatre making an impression in cinema from the mid-'70s.
I first noticed him in Jeanne Moreau's LUMIERE in 1976, and the big one was next year with Wim Wenders' THE AMERICAN FRIEND in 1977, when we were all fascinated by the new German cinema of Wenders, Herzog and Fassbinder [I shall get around him too in due course...]. THE AMERICAN FRIEND was a terrific version of Patricia Highsmith's "Ripley's Game" (also later filmed by Liliana Cavani in 2002), well apart from Dennis Hopper as a very odd Tom Ripley, and featuring Nicholas Ray in one of his last appearances. We just loved the look of the film, and Ganz as the picture framer with a fatal illness lured by Ripley into crime and murder. The Ripley books were de riguer at the time, so this was very well received.

Ganz followed up with films like Rohmer's DIE MARQUISE VON O, Herzog's oddball take on NOSFERATU in '79 as Jonathan Harker, with Isabelle Adjani and Kinski as Nosferatu, as well as appearing in films like THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL. Another fascinating late '70s German film was Hauff's KNIFE IN THE HEAD (MESSER IM KPOF) where he is Hoffman who gets mistaken for a radical and gets shot in the head and has to rebuild his life in hospital - its a terrific performance in a film which should be much better known.

Wenders' WINGS OF DESIRE was another great arthouse hit in 1987, which people either loved or not. It is a mesmerising meditation on love and desire as those angels hover over Berlin, with Bruno as the angel who falls in love and wants to be human. Ganz kept working in a variety of roles, and suddenly became famous all over again for his terrific portrayal of Hitler in 2004's DOWNFALL. De Niro's and Pacino's glory days may be behind them now and they just work for money, but Bruno seems to have kept his integrity and quietly keeps on working, its a very prolific career.

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