In 1984, an 8-year-old Hunter Carson made his screen debut as the son of a wanderer (played by Harry Dean Stanton) and a stripper (Nastassja Kinski) in director Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas. Seventeen years later, Carson lives in Dallas and is preparing to craft his own films (as writer and director), and Wenders keeps making remarkable, if often enigmatic and misunderstood, films, among them Wings of Desire (1987), Until the End of the World (released in the United States in 1992), The End of Violence (1997) and The Million Dollar Hotel (2001). Carson and Wenders have remained close friends and, on occasion, even talk of doing a sequel to Paris, Texas. Until then, here are excerpts from an e-mail exchange between the two, done in advance of Wenders' appearance at the festival, where he will take questions after screenings of Million Dollar Hotel and the director's cut of Until the End of the World.
Which do you enjoy writing more: screenplays or prose, and why?
I love writing prose, and I enjoy writing in general. But I'm deeply troubled when it comes to writing a screenplay. Screenplays are a pain in my book, maybe because they really represent nothing by themselves, until they are turned into a movie. The day before I shoot a scene, I can really get into the script and rewrite the scene and be totally involved and enjoy the writing. But in the phase when you just dream of a film, and the screenplay is only some sort of blueprint, some transient and preliminary form of what you want to achieve, I am in total awe of it. I guess I'm a director, not a writer.
What is the purpose of a director's cut?
To make people realize that it wasn't you who fucked things up, but the producers or distributors. A director's cut only makes sense if you were really unhappy with the released version of the film, so you try, at least in hindsight, to put your own vision back together. Which is why I made the director's cut of Until the End of the World. That was an epic journey, around the globe, which we shot in 10 countries over the period of one whole year. My first rough cut came in at 12 hours! At four and a half hours the film had the perfect length, but I was forced to cut it down to two and a half, which was some sort of Reader's Digest version of the film. The plot got messy, the characters were undefined, my narrator had to be eliminated, and any humor was cut out. So I decided, just for my actors who had worked so hard and long on this film, to finish "the real thing" and hopefully be able to show it later. And that is now exactly 10 years after the film's first release.
Another reason for me to go through the trouble and the expense of editing, mixing and preserving this long version of the film was the fact that I had this fabulous collection of songs made for the film, by 15 bands who all contributed original material to the film's score. Some of this music got cut down just like the film. I wanted it to blossom, at least once, in my director's cut. I am very proud of this film. You do an adventure like this once in your life, and you don't want it to remain forever crippled.
Were you surprised at the critics' negative reaction to The Million Dollar Hotel?
The film was released all over the world, and had both great reviews and results and poor ones. It bombed in England, for instance, with not a single good review, and it was a fantastic success in Italy, with nothing but raves. In the United States, where the film was really only released, poorly, in New York and Los Angeles, I couldn't have been happier with the reviews. Both in The New York Times and in the Los Angeles Times I had the best reviews I ever had for a film of mine. Seriously, my best friends couldn't have written them better. They were the kind of reviews you want to put under your pillow when you go to sleep at night. Differentiated, subtle, funny, respectful and appreciative. I was on cloud nine, as far as those reviews were concerned.
Others weren't so good, that's true. But, boy, was I ready for that after the slaughter in England! You see, Million Dollar Hotel is the kind of movie you know you're going to get very mixed reactions. You just know some people will love it, deeply, and others won't care at all.
Do you think that Million Dollar Hotel was misunderstood?
You bet. The film doesn't have a grain of cynicism in it, and today that means to really swim against the tides. Million Dollar Hotel is a very fragile, very tender love story, almost a fairy tale, and it comes in the disguise of a film noir-detective-thriller-comedy sort of package. A friend found the perfect genre for it and called it "the first screwball tragedy." There you have it. You think a film like that won't be misunderstood?
What is your favorite movie of all time?
I'm torn here. Today I might say 2001: A Space Odyssey, tomorrow it might be Tokyo Story, and on another day it will be a film by John Ford or Howard Hawks or Preston Sturges or François Truffaut. Depends on how I feel.
Which, of all your films, is your favorite?
It was Alice in the Cities for a decade, then it was Wings of Desire for a decade, now it is Million Dollar Hotel, and not just because it is recent.
Why did you choose plate armor for the angel in Wings of Desire?
Good question. I had sleepless nights because of that at the time, thinking it was a disastrous wrong decision. It was, but nobody noticed much.
If you could invite four people, throughout history, to a dinner party, who would they be? Why?
I would invite my brother and my dad, so they could meet my wife. They both died before I met her. Then I would invite Albert Einstein, because he had a good sense of humor, and I would like him to explain a couple of things to me. And finally, I guess I would invite Marilyn Monroe to sing us a couple of songs. Wait, maybe the music could be provided by Johann Sebastian Bach? Wow, I guess Marilyn might not be invited after all.
What scene was the hardest to direct in Paris, Texas?
Anything with you in it. You were such a spoiled brat! The rest was a piece of cake.
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