Wim Wenders' new film "The Land of Plenty"

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Wim Wenders' new film "The Land of Plenty"

Post by Dem » Fri Aug 20, 2004 3:35 pm

What follows is a translation I made of an article that was printed today in
the major Greek newspaper "Kathimerini".
It is about Wim Wenders' film "The Land of Plenty" whose titled was inspired
by Leonard's same titled song.

Hope you will find it interesting



Wenders' film a critical voice of the USA

Rage, admiration, sadness, respect, discomfort. From the many various
sentiments that the American society and the policies of its administrations
produce only indifference is absent. Especially the Europeans-politicians,
intellectuals, citizens- watch closely the country on the other side of the
ocean that has become a point of reference.

The land of plenty

"The land of plenty" the film that the German director Wim Wenders, is going
to present in this year's Venice International Film Festival is a strong,
political view at America's heart and its darkest sides. It criticizes an
egotistical society, full of imbalances and it shows its dark and
ðáñáìåëçìÝíåò sides that lie away from the glamour and wealth.
Ìany times the director has stated that "it is his most political film" :
"In the USA people are very little informed about what is going on, not only
in the rest of the world but even in their next neighborhood. It is not the
freedom of expression that is absent but rather the people who will make use
of it. And that helps the pro-Administration propaganda.
The only thing I can do as a director is to offer a different view
especially on matters such as poverty, a very serious problem in the USA
about which, strangely enough, nobody speaks.
"One can't be silent about the politics of the current U.S. administration,
especially when one lives in the United States," Wenders told the Spanish
newspaper "El Pais".
Alienation Initially Wenders had titled the film "Angst and Alienation in
America" as a reference to a country that struggles to recover from the
terrorist attacks and suffers from fears, obsessions and patriot dogmas, a
country that can't stand criticism.Later he changed the title after the
title of a song by Leonard Cohen.His cinematic attempt is nothing more than
a voice of agony and criticism for the controversial aspects of modern
America: the wealth and plenty for some, the poverty for the rest.The film
was created over the course of just a few weeks and all of the filming was
completed in New York and Los Angeles.

PS) Here is a short summary of the film's plot:

Using the streets of downtown Los Angeles as a backdrop, Wim Wenders' new
film is a darkly humorous and poignant essay on contemporary America.

We see the country from two very different perspectives: Through the eyes of
a patriotic and troubled Vietnam veteran on one hand, and from the point of
view of a young American woman on the other.

A retired Green Beret, Paul is obsessed with protecting the Land of the Free
and with doing his part in the ongoing "War Against Terror". He was shot
down in combat near Long Thanh at the age of eighteen, and is now
experiencing the increasing psychological effects of dioxin poisoning, the
result of being exposed to Agent Pink exfoliate more than thirty years ago.
The events of 9/11 retriggered his trauma of war and made the ghosts of his
past return. But fear is the last thing Paul could admit to himself.

Lana has lived in Africa and Europe for the last ten years and is returning
to her home country after a long absence. She intends to go to college, but
finds herself involved very soon in a Downtown Mission that is serving the
huge homeless community of America's "Hunger Capital". She's an idealist,
still trying to define her place in the world. She finds her Christian faith
in striking opposition to positions taken by the present administration.

Paul has no friends and has cut all ties with his family. His reclusive
existence as a self-declared homeland security officer collapses when Lana
enters into it. She is his long forgotten niece, and her uncle the only
connection to her mother's family. Paul grudgingly accepts her presence.

When they witness the apparently random shooting of a homeless
Middle-Eastern man, they decide to investigate this incident together, even
if for very different reasons. On this quest for the truth, their different
views of the world collide radically.

The film is based on the hope that "truth" is not an altogether lost notion
in today's political and social realities. Even in America, even in 2003.
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Post by lizzytysh » Fri Aug 20, 2004 4:51 pm

Hi Demetris ~

I'm very interested in seeing this film. The VietNam vet's plight is not an unusual one. They are a segment here who have continued to suffer. Just as a minor correction, the "Agent" colour is, in fact, called "Agent Orange."

Thanks, again. There are many disparities here. That film title works much better, too.....simply as a title, much less the irony of it.

~ Elizabeth
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Post by Kush » Fri Aug 20, 2004 6:08 pm

Dem...are you "The Wicked Messenger"? in that case "if you don't have good news, then don't bring any".
I think you have issues that you need to sort out.
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Post by lizzytysh » Fri Aug 20, 2004 7:04 pm

Now, wait a minute......as I read this posting by Demetris.....there has been a film whose named was inspired by a song written and sung by Leonard Cohen [and the content of the film not oblivious to the content of the song, either]. There are also some who have 'issues' regarding legitimate criticism of the United States, and what it purports to be.....and only wanting the 'good' messengers to come in.

On another note, I'm glad to see the 16-year-old gymnast from the U.S. win as she did at the Olympics :D 8) .
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Post by Kush » Fri Aug 20, 2004 8:20 pm

my post wasnt a reaction to the movie itself but to Dem's attitude. Let's see - all his posts about Greece are warm and fuzzy about exotic islands and even more esoteric writers and such....and his posts about US are sanctimonious and holier-than-thou. And when I bring up a not so nice aspect of Greece (on another thread) he becomes rather defensive about it....the word "hypocrite" comes to mind.
I see a lot of foreign films (almost 1 every week) and I'm sure I'll see this one....somehow I suspect Dem's translation or the original greek article is a little colored or shall we say "sexed up"....

Adios and have a good weekend.
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Post by Midnight » Sat Aug 21, 2004 1:47 am

Great. Just what the world needs--another Wim Winders film. Trust him to use the wacko Viet Nam Vet cliche. (He's "troubled" because he "patriotic.") What also bugs me about the review is that the "Lana" charactor has been living in Europe and Africa. Africa --- mind you---it's an obscenity to have a charactor come back from a continent that has true hunger and merciless living conditions and have her "serving the homeless in the "Hunger Capital." Bulls--t. I've got news for him--I'm on the bottom here in the USA economically speaking ---and nobody---and I do mean NOBODY-- is going hungry here. There is no "Hunger Capital." I know from personal experience what goes on in The Lower Depths in America. Nobody is starving.

Of course the subtext is that "Lana" is an "idealist" because she has been living abroad for ten years untainted by the American virus. Wonderful Europe...Lousy America.

And without even seeing the film, I bet the Middle Eastern man was either shot by a racist redneck cop or it's some kind of government conspiracy.

Old Wim also picked the weakest song on TNS to feature. Figures.
If I were going to make a film and base it on a song it would be "That Don't Make It Junk." Now there's a song you can do something with.

P.S. Forget Wim. For the good stuff...get the Iranian films. They are doing great work. Also, my favorite Russian film is "Burnt by the Sun." Beautiful, funny and sad and makes me grateful to God that I live in the "Hunger Capital." (Also, has the best child actor I've ever seen.)
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Post by Midnight » Sat Aug 21, 2004 1:59 am

P.S. I am gong to see this film. So, Lizzytysh, you can look forward to a review.

P.P.S. And if things are as bad in L.A. as Wim makes out...then Leonard should stop writing songs about Heather and get his a-- over to a soup kitchen.
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Post by Joe Way » Sat Aug 21, 2004 4:31 am

Hi All,
This is probably going to be a long post so go grab a beverage if you wish and sit back and consider.

I grew up in the '60's and my older brother was drafted after college. He thought that since he was a college graduate he would be given some clerical task, but as it happened-he came of age in 1968 and they trained him as a non-commissioned officer to lead a rifle and mortar platoon. He arrived in Vietnam in January of 1969. He crossed the international date line on his birthday and lost it accordingly. I was reminded of this by some old war show where an officer on a navy ship has this occur and the captain sails back to recover the day. This didn't happen with my brother. He arrived in Vietnam and was sent into the field immediately.

He still refuses to talk about his experiences saying, "You know, it's all the same old shit that you read about." He'll talk about the personalities of his friends, but that's about it. My family feels so fortunate that he survived as the one nod to the possibility of being a casualty came to me where he instructed me on funeral procedures (he didn't want anything military) and he wanted to be buried in a special place. He advised me to go to Canada as he said-"It isn't worth it."

Now, he resents most deeply the notion of the "crazed' Vietnam vet which it appears that Wim Winders is portraying in the movie. I'll reserve judgment until I see it, but it bothers me already that there is this cliched notion of what happens to these people who have had this experience.

I recently listened to a books on tape of a story written by David Maraniss called, "They Marched Into Sunlight." The story concurrently records the ambush of a company of soldiers in Vietnam in 1967-the "Black Lions"-with the protests here in Madison of the students who objected to Dow Chemical recruiting on campus.

One of the survivors of the ambush went to Vietnam in the last couple of years and met his adversary in the Viet Cong and toured the battlefield where so many of both their comrades died. It is written from the Lieutenant's perspective so it is clear how political the operation played out with pressure to show success in the field for the benefit of the Johnson administration in demonstrating the progress that was being made. This Lieutenant dedicated his professional life to, as he says, "not letting any other men go out without a clear mission and complete support." He admires his adversary much more than the leaders who placed him in this unenviable position.

I recommend this book to you as both a source of knowledge for the war and a sense of what was happening on university campus's as well. I was not particularly political, but I saw so many errors on both sides of the equation that remind me of our present time.

I am a proud American who has enjoyed the liberty and economic opportunity that this country provides. I am particularly aware of the many people who are not big money folks whose efforts continue to provide sustenance, confidence, and a kindly attitude to those below the norm of ordinary life here. Despite our current presiden't's claim to compassionate conservatism-it doesn't seem to me to have expanded in his years in office.

I would like to quote a book that I have been enjoying immensely-"Dark Star Safari"-by Paul Theroux. I highly recommend this travelogue.

This passage seems to be particulary telling about the perception of the U.S.

"Mohammed, the resident watchman and guide, was not much use.

"American?" he said in Arabic, an unmistakable word, accusing me with a brown twisted finger."

"American." I said.

"Bush is Satan."

"Ana ma'aif (I don't know.), I said.

"Clinton is Satan," Mohammed said.

"Ana ma'aif."

"Why you say you don't know?"

I just smiled at him.

"American soldiers no good. Kill people!"

We were walking from the broken steps to the broken wall and, along it, treading on Cushitic bricks. Mohammed looked tired and disgruntled. He said he had three daughters, no sons. He had no money. His grandfather had been the caretake and guide here, so had his father. But if Mohammed knew anything technical or historical about this place, he did not reveal it t me.

Suddenly he said in halting English, "I want to go America."

"America ma kwais," I said, mimicking what he had said.

"Yes, but no work here."

"You want to work in America?"

"Yes, Get job. Get dollars."

"Bush shaytaan," I said, teasing him again.

"How I can go America?" Mohammed said, kicking at the ancient bricks.

"Ana ma'arif," I said.

"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
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Post by Helven » Sat Aug 21, 2004 6:03 am

Midnight, is the Russian film you mentioned about an emigrant who returned to Russia, became an NKVD officer (since he had no other chance to come back than by doing that), and got an order to arrest a "red commander", a husband of his former beloved? He plays "Russian roulette" in the beginning: puts one bullet into a gun, turns a drum and shoots at his temple (or at his heart?) on the off-chance so as to either die immediately, or execute the order. And he cuts his veins then, in the end of the film. Is it this one? I suppose it is, but I'm not quite sure since its original name is different a bit - something like "Tired of the Sun".

It may seem to you strange and funny a bit, but, as for me, I'm "grateful to God", that I was born and live here - in spite of all the troubles we had and partially still have. That's really so. I didn't "meet" with the darkest times of our history, of course, but even if I did... don't think it'd change anything.

...and our men and women defeated yours in volleyball at the Olympics :P :wink: ... Well, I know, I know, you're at the first place with your gold medals there, and we have very few of them.
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Post by jurica » Sat Aug 21, 2004 5:38 pm

Midnight wrote:Great. Just what the world needs--another Wim Winders film..)
i can tell you are very familiar with his work from a) how you spell his name, b) how you look down on, in my opinion, one of the greatest directors of 70's and 80's
Midnight wrote:Old Wim also picked the weakest song on TNS to feature. Figures.
would it hurt you to say: he piched WHAT I THINK IS the... we don't all think the same here. i, for one, like the song.

this way you sound as someone from 1984 or Brave New World.

Midnight wrote:Forget Wim. For the good stuff...get the Iranian films.
forget My American Friend, The Sky Over Berlin, Alice in the Cities, Paris Texas...? thanx for advice, but it's not easy to do. the movies are too impressive to just erase them with Iranian social/humanist realism. it is very fashionate to like Iranian films here also, like it was fashionate to like Chinese movies few years before that, and fifteen years ago it was fashionate to like German movies.

sorry, but i don't like your fashion buissness Mrs.


now on to the movie:
Wenders should film more about Germany. he's totaly lost his touch. he's filming about the blues (American music), Buena Vista Social Club (Cuban music), American politics...

shouldn't he let American moviemakers worry about their problems, and finally make a movie spoken in German?

i think artist should adress problems they know most about: Germans about German problems, and Americans about American problems.
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Post by Anne » Sat Aug 21, 2004 6:07 pm

artist should adress problems they know most about: Germans about German problems, and Americans about American problems.
I don't know about this. It reminds me of the whole 'appropriation of voice' argument of the early 90s. I don't think there should be limits on the focus of artists. Maybe Wenders isn't interested or inspired by 'German problems' right now. Creativity and inspiration leads art in interesting ways.
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Post by Charles » Sat Aug 21, 2004 11:41 pm

Jurica -- I don't think it's a good thing to criticize someone for a typographical error. Especially if one's own post is full of mis-spellings.

And it isn't necessary for a person to write "what I think" when stating an opinion. It's redundant. After all Jurica YOU don't write "what I think" everytime you post. Why? because everyone realizes that what you are writing is what you think.

And I agree that Iranian films are wonderful. And I don't say this just to be fashionable. Burnt By the Sun is a spectacular movie as well.

I am at polar opposites with Midnight over political issues. But you are being unfair to him with your latest criticisms. He laughs at "Wim" and you hate him for it. He praises other foreign film makers and you treat him with disdain. It seems that Midnight cannot win with you. No matter what he says you are going to attack him for it.

And it would be a terrible thing if film directors made films only in their own countries or cultures. That would truly be 1984
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Post by lizzytysh » Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:14 am

Hi Joe ~

Your 'long' [but not to me :wink: :lol: ] and well-considered response gave me pause. The excerpt you quoted was very effective in making the point that Vesuvius make with regularity ~ that there are many, worldwide, who would love to come to America, regardless of what they may/may not say. This may well be true. Of course, there are many who regularly choose otherwise, as well.

I'm very interested by your brother's situation and 'adaption'[?] to his own involvement in the VietNam War, whilst he still advised you to go to Canada, as it isn't worth it. I've heard that his reluctance to speak of that time in specifics is fairly common. I'm curious how much ongoing contact he has with other VietNam Vets. I can understand his railing against the lumping together of them as being any, one way, especially since he seems to have adjusted as 'well' as can be expected.

I've seen a number of documentaries and read a number of accounts on how those Vets have fared psychologically and emotionally. I've also encountered them while tending bar at various places; while working for an employment place; just living in the Keys; and attending a couple meetings at a 'biker bar,' regarding the no-helmet law [though that wasn't my reason for being there]. What I've seen and noted has been a rather generalized kind of anger, pessimism, bitterness, and/or cynicism. I've noticed that they've not been terribly pleased with the U.S. Government, in general. I've heard enough about Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and their disproportionate representation amongst the homeless, as well as inability to hold down jobs. I'm not sure how to describe it any better than that.

However, I can't discount your own brother's position. It tends to make me want to do my own, 'straw' poll at various Vets locations, to the effect of, "Do you feel the 'crazed Vietnam vet' image is grossly and unfairly over-represented in the media? From your own observations, how do you feel Vietnam vets have adjusted in their return to the civilian sector?"

I heard on NPR the other day a discussion by some [unknown ~ I came in during the middle of it, and left before it concluded] people [one was maybe a psychologist?] how we [the general population] presume vets from combat to readjust more poorly than they actually do. Some things that were cited were their training [and just doing what they're trained to do], and there being certain things that people really are willing to fight hard and even die for [though I'd say this sense is certainly heightened in the course of their training, as well]. They said that many simply return to their regular lives, though they are more mature and serious and focused about their new priorities as to what matters and what doesn't ~ though they certainly have a period of skittishness and heightened alertness to their [albeit normal] surroundings, that a carryovers from combat. This overall discussion would seem to support your/your brother's position, and and steer away from the 'crazed vet' image. The jury's still out, with me, on what I heard of that broadcast.

Yet, your brother seems somewhat to minimize and discount the impact of what occurred with him over there [with his statements]; yet the reality is that he refuses to talk about it, and advised you to go to Canada, that it wasn't worth it. The overall picture seems to be that he may not be a 'crazed vet,' but it certainly had an impact [and took a toll] on him. His silence speaks for/to something. Perhaps, his adjustment, however, was related to his family being more understanding and supportive; perhaps, he availed himself of some follow-up services that others didn't. I'm only guessing with these, as to what all could make the difference. I remain intrigued by the different portrait that you paint through his readjustment to society.

When I think of it [gut level], I can't imagine that people wouldn't be freaked out, crazed if you will, by being immersed in an environment where you don't know where the next bomb, grenade, bullet, or machete may be coming from. Where you witness dear friends blown or hacked apart. Where you, yourself, in many cases came face-to-face with death, and did what you had to do to survive. These are not 'normal' living circumstances. I know that we are 'adaptable' creatures, but for me a 'crazed' reaction to all of this makes more 'sense' than an 'adaptive,' return to normal one.

I'm not saying anyone's right or wrong here, but I am offering some of my own thoughts on the 'predictability' of responses to a truly garish situation.

~ Elizabeth
Last edited by lizzytysh on Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by lizzytysh » Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:27 am

Dear Helven ~

I can understand your being grateful for where you live. I'm glad I was born where I was, as well. With my parents both having been school teachers, we had three months off every summer, and often traveled and camped [with a tent] for 2 to 2 1/2 of them......covering most of the United States, real up close and personal with the various states, towns, and the people who lived in them. I treasure those times.

With the Olympics and other competitions, I'm rooting for and thrilled when the U.S. wins. Maybe I Pollyanna-like wish this is how wars could be 'fought,' if wars are something we can't seem to live without. I have to say that if the negatives outweighed the positives for me, I'd have become an ex-patriate by now.

However, it doesn't mean I think all is well or beyond criticism here. We may not have starving people in the same way that the third-world countries do, but then we're not a third-world country, either! We are reportedly 'the' leader in the world. We are a 'first-world' country. Those are the standards by which measure should be made. It's how we 'represent' ourselves, worldwide....."We're the best!" The leaders leave it up to the poets, songwriters, writers, and pundits to mention that "We're the cradle of . . . the worst," as well. When it's looked at in that fashion [with all our 'wealth'], why are people going without life-saving medicines and medical procedures; why are there soup kitchens and the homeless; why do people live in shacks and slums; etc.].

I'm glad to see you have legitimate pride in and gratitude for your homeland.

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Post by lizzytysh » Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:50 am

Anne and Charles ~

I couldn't agree more that creativity should not/cannot be held hostage by national/cultural borders.

~ Lizzy
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