Here's an American film made with a European touch that provides social, psychological and political commentary. The story was conceived and the music provided by Bono (of U-2 fame). U-2, incidentally, provided the music for many of Wim Wender's recent films.
I watched this Wim Wenders film, 25 years after I last saw a film by this German director. I have only seen two others Kings of the Road and The Wrong Movement both made in the mid-Seventies. Wim Wenders impressed me then, he impresses me now. He is a social commentator who loves to deal with alienated individuals. He is a German who loves Americana, its varied hues of lifestyles and contrasting views of life.
The opening helicopter shot caressing the sleek LA skyscrapers well clad in glass and steel ends up with the skeleton of the Million Dollar Hotel neon sign. In the background an airplane is taking off. Those who recall Kings of the Road will remember a similar scene in a lonely landscape.
The film is not a mystery film. It is more a reflective, surrealist, social commentary. The first shot of the Mel Gibson FBI character is from his shoes only gradually revealing the man in the shoes. The man in the shoes is a modern Don Quixote, patched up by medical technology. No one in the film is real--each character is unreal with element of realism. Each statement of the script is loaded with social comment. Example "you have to vote in a democracy with a Y or a N, a Y for why and N for why not.." Everyone is manipulating everyone: the media moghul the media, the FBI the suspects, the denizens of hotel each other, the hotel owner his guests, the music business the musicians..If you are attentive the film is hilarious in its wacky social commentary. It reminded me of the fine Danny Kaye (his last regular movie) film The Mad Woman Of Chaillot directed by Bryan Forbes and based on Jean Giradoux' play, where the characters are equally farcical, while the social commentary is sharp as a knife.
Wim Wenders in America is different from Wenders in Europe. He uses American clichés but his cinema remains European. That Gibson contributed his role without pay underlines Gibson's respect for Wenders. Wenders belongs to the era of German cinema (the Seventies) that spewed many talented filmmakers: Syberberg, Fassbinder, von Trotta, Schlondorff, Herzog and Hauff. That this film's true content and value are lost on many Americans is a social comment that must have amused Wenders. Wenders has not withered, he is as effective as he was in his prime, combining strong scripts with fascinating images and marrying both with good music.
See the movie and let the allegories sink in--a hotel that hosts mentally challenged people, too poor to afford medical insurance. If you can figure out the allegories, the movie is a treasure trove.