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By Ray Pride

 

SINCE HIS CAREER began, Wim Wenders has committed many of his striking, restless photographs to print. The latest collection in English, Once: Pictures and Stories (Wim Wenders, D.A.P./Schirmer/Mosel, $25), is more the record of a location-scout for one’s life than for any series of movies. First published in Italian in 1993, Once records a couple decades of wanderjahren, with Wenders penning ragged, blank verse to describe lonely vistas or haunting, beaten-down façades, the faces of friends and great filmmakers he has known.

The language is adequate: run-on souvenirs of his subsets of artistic acquaintance, such as "Once/on some street in SoHo/I ran into/John Lurie" that supplement a photo of Lurie swooning a woman into a kiss – a wry hipster variation on the street photos of Robert Doisneau. There are also encounters with the likes of Antonioni, Coppola, Godard, Kazan, Scorsese, Michael Powell, Nick Ray and, emblematically, a series of aging cowboys beneath weathered hats. The largest image is a two-page tableau of a swimming hole, Francis Coppola as a benign water creature to the right, and on the left, the only figure not swimming – sensei Akira Kurosawa in shirt and tie – on a folding chair, reflected in the water’s surface as a placid squiggle of kanji.

It’s fame-dropping, yes, but Wenders shows an eternal child’s delight in the tentativeness of acquaintance, the transience of a life comprised of successive destinations. Once reflects the strata of observation that is necessary to generate the diamond-like glitter of telling images folded into a montage and crafted into stories that gleam and last.

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