Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Land of Plenty

Don’t really have the courage
To stand where I must stand.
Don’t really have the temperament
To lend a helping hand.
-Leonard Cohen, Land of Plenty

Land of Plenty is perhaps Wim Wenders most accessible film to date. It is his essay on the affects of September 11, 2001 and the United States after that date. It is an incredibly positive view of uniting the left and the right in a dialogue rather than a rock-em-sock-em robot punching match.
Paul is a paranoid conspiracy theorist patrolling the streets of Los Angeles with survelience equipment trying to put observations together and sniff out terrorist cells. He was an adjusted Vietnam war veteran until the September 11 attacks which awoke the terror and fears he experienced in his past tours of duty.
His neice, Lana is returning to America from Tel Aviv with a letter from her mother (who has recently died) for her uncle Paul. She has been travelling in Africa and the Middle East with her parents who are missionaries. When she arrives in L.A. she takes a job in a homeless shelter in one of the poorest parts of L.A. (and probably the whole of America). She is full of idealism and optimism, but worldly as well.
Paul begins following an Arab man who is carrying around boxes of Borax from place to place. He is recording his findings with an audio journal (an a headset which never leaves his head) and camera equipment mounted in his van. When the man is shot in a drive-by shooting in front of the shelter which Lana works, Paul and Lana find each other by co-incidence. Paul is distant and uncommunicative, lost in his investigation and conspiracy theories. Since Lana talked with the man who was shot, she tries to break through to her uncle by helping in his investigation.
I'll leave where the investigation goes, it is one of the pleasures of the movie. However it does lead to a nice dialogue between Paul and Lana.

Wender's America is that of abject poverty and confusion and a view that America would be great again if reasonable dialogue on hot-button subjects was possible. Believe me however when I say that this is the most pro-american film I've seen in a while.


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