Photo Book Review: Instant Stories, by Wim Wenders

Wim Wenders was long a fan of the Polaroid, reveling in the instantaneous nature of these photos, and their uniqueness, the fact that there was only one copy of them. He shot lots of Polaroid photos, and his foundation recently went through many boxes of old photos to organize them. This book is the result of that organization, and also serves as a catalog of an exhibit held in London at The Photographers’ Gallery. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

But you won’t buy this book for the quality of the photos; this isn’t a book of photos, but a book of stories with photos as illustrations. Wenders recounts his early film career, from the first film he was involved in, an adaptation of Peter Handke’s The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, through the 1980 film, Lightning over Water, after which he stopped shooting Polaroids.

Some of his stories are interesting. Languishing in New York, where he had just found out that the plot of his first original movie, Alice in the Cities, was similar to that of Peter Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon, he went to CBGB for an evening. A young woman asked if the chair next to him was empty, and he said yes, so she took it. Later, she came back to find out who this lonely man was. They chatted, and she gave him her name, Annie, and a business card, telling him to look her up if he was ever in California.

He ended up going west unexpectedly, and did look her up, and met her – Annie Liebowitz – at her office at Rolling Stone. She was planning to drive down to Los Angeles, and asked if he wanted to come. Wenders also had Sam Fuller’s business card, after having interviewed him once in Germany, so he called Fuller, went to his house, with Annie, for a long breakfast, and Fuller convinced him to go ahead with Alice in the Cities. (The book contains several pictures of Wenders, by Liebovitz, and a photo of Sam Fuller.)

The book relates other anecdotes about the filming of Wenders’ various films, including one of my favorites, Kings of the Road (Im Lauf der Zeit), then the debacle shooting Hammett for Francis Ford Coppola, filming The American Friend with the suicidal Dennis Hopper, who had just finish shooting Apocalypse Now, and Lightning over Water, about the dying Nicholas Ray.

I’ve long been a fan of Wenders’ work, and have seen all these films, so the back story, and the tales of peregrinations, appealed to me. If you appreciate the early films of Wim Wenders, you’ll find this book interesting, but if not, the photos don’t stand on their own enough to make this a photo book of interest.

(Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

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