Notebook on Cities and Clothes

Dir: Wim Wenders
1989
This is Wenders’ little-seen documentary on designer Yohji Yamamoto,
and I watched it in two parts because it simply wasn’t that compelling. The documentary was very derivative of Chris Marker’s musings on video and film, but without Marker’s eye for story or depth or his knack for arresting images. Part of the reason is Yamamoto as a subject. His fashion isn’t that interesting (as most of that season’s line is black and filmed in muddy pre-DV video, there’s not much to see), and most of his interviews seem conducted at the end of a full day of work, where the subject is exhausted. Yamamoto mumbles a lot, and Wenders tries to make it more cinematic by playing with video and film (this was one of Wenders’ first times to use a portable video camera). Half the film is about Wenders questions about film/video vs. reality, but I didn’t feel he got to any major points on it. I feel more that Wenders started making a doc on Yamamoto and found that it wasn’t really enough, that the subject was too elusive. All the time the film reminded me of Marker’s A.K., his documentary on Akira Kurosawa and the making of “Ran”, which uses similar techniques, and also muses a lot on memory and truth, but still offers a lot of insight into Kurosawa’s talent and methods.

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