Alice in the Cities

I love Wim Wenders, but the line from one of his first films, Alice in the Cities, has bothered me for some time — while talking with a lost girl, he remarks, “I like to stay at the hotel closest to the airport.”  I’ve never digested this sentiment, as airports are never located near anything interesting, save security fences, acres of concrete, restricted fields of burnt grass… Why fly to a new place only to remain in a sterile environment? What beauty? Is the height of luxury what he was implying, to stay aloft, or nearly so? I’ve come to see this line as unimportant, necessarily so – that it was written without much thought, or to suggest something else, which escapes me. For instance, his remark was that they had many airports to fly between, so desire this convenience or, maybe, that the neighborhood was unimportant, though, as someone who has lived in Manhattan long enough to be indoctrinated, this would be inane. As brilliant as Wenders is, I can’t see him not caring where he is, who he’s interacting with. Was it meant to be funny? Though I haven’t seen the film in more than a decade, I still remember the affable look Wenders had when he let loose this bomb. Impossible to glean anything here – Yes, it was sort of half-smilingly funny, for him. Was he proud of the line? Did he secretly know what he was unleashing? Was he, like Robert Downey Jr in Tropical Thunder, playing a version of himself playing himself somehow lost in the role? Is this some sort of anagram? Did he work at an airport before he became a famous director and had some sad, undefined nostalgia?

“I want to stay in the hotel closest to the airport.”

Damn you Wim Wenders. Why won’t you return my call?

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