Yesterday I finally watched my R2 DVD of Wim Wenders' Kings Of the Road. I had been looking forward to this for quite some time as I've been a long-time supporter of this director, am partial to longer films, and had heard great things about this one.
I was not disappointed. The easiest way to describe this is a combination of Easy Rider and The Last Picture Show. It shares the bromance and wandering road trip of the former, the requiem for the decline of small town life (and cinema) of the latter, and the depiction of changing times of both. To fully appreciate the film, I imagine one would have to at least be somewhat familiar with the depressing economic/cultural state of East Germany in this time period. And yet the story is far from a slog. The two main characters have in a sense removed themselves from the main stream, and are drifting in avoidance (or in protest) of what's around them with a bit of a sardonic shrug. And the American culture which is noted as slowly taking over much of the region, is regarded from both sides: Hollywood exports contributing to the fall of the local film industry, but also in the rock and roll that enlivens the travelers' spirits and gives the film a lot of its energy.
It's a very human film, with none of the turns (from the two leads or the gallery of people they briefly meet) coming off very actorly or studied. The nudity is frank and not sensational , and the turns of the plot feel equally arbitrary and non-forced.
The black and white photography from Robby Müller is stunning, and Wenders makes great use of the geography of his locations (both interior and exterior).
While I find myself partial to the extended cut of Until The End Of The World, it's very possible this is Wenders' greatest work, and the only 1976 films I'd put above it are Taxi Driver, Bertolucci's 1900, and maybe Rivette's Noroît. Yes, I think it's a greater triumph than Network.