Room 666 (1982)

Director: Wim Wenders

In which Wim Wenders visits the 1982 Cannes Film Festival and sits an assortment of his fellow attendees down in a hotel room with a 16mm camera, a tape recorder, a TV playing quietly in the background, and a question about the future (or otherwise) of cinema for them to pontificate on. Which they do at varying lengths; Jean-Luc Godard goes on for about 10 minutes, Mike De Leon for just a few seconds. Of course, from our perspective, Wenders’ own film is an artifact of the past, as probably inevitably happens to things like this which consciously try to predict the future of something; years later, our primary interest (should we care at all about such things) is mainly in seeing who got what right (the film’s fascination with the extent to which television might displace cinema is particularly amusing these days). Indeed, the film hardened into history within less than a fortnight of its first screening, when one of Wenders’ interviewees, R.W. Fassbinder, permanently checked out of the world with the help of some prescription and non-prescription drugs… and quite a few of his other interviewees have either passed on as well or else been kind of quiet over the years. Werner Herzog always offers good value, of course, kind of predicting the Internet as we now know it, while Michelangelo Antonioni, who would’ve been much the oldest filmmaker here, is, interestingly, perhaps the one most comfortable with the idea of technological change and having to adjust, quite interested in working with video (which he’d already done by this point). Plus Monte Hellman’s lament about the stuff he tapes off TV then never gets around to watching will no doubt resonate with many viewers even now (he said, looking with horror at his own monstrous backlog). And Steven Spielberg’s grumping about filmmaking only getting more expensive has kind of proven to be the case, not that he’s done much to help the situation with some of his own films or anything… In some ways, though, it’s the last interviewee, Yilmaz Guney, who’s the most interesting, not only because his interview is the only time Wenders varies his camera set-up in the whole film, but because he couldn’t actually appear on camera at all; at the time he was still in hiding from the Turkish government, so Wenders presents a recording of him instead. It’s actually a nice reminder in a way that pondering the future of cinema is an interesting thought experiment, but it’s not necessarily the most important thing in the world to contemplate…

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