My first breakup happened in the summer of 1990, and like all 17-year-olds in Fresno, my reaction was to spend a week on my brother’s couch drinking, doing hallucinogens, and watching arty foreign movies. One of those movies was Wim Wenders’ 1987 Wings of Desire, the story of an angel (Bruno Ganz) in West Berlin who decides to forsake his transcendent existence and become mortal after falling in love with a circus acrobat (Solveig Dommartin).
The angels saw the world in glorious black-and-white while the humans viewed the world in color — and even on VHS through a haze of heartbreak and drugs, it was just what I needed. I could tell it was one of the most beautiful, heartfelt movies ever, and seeing it on 35mm at the Red Vic (RIP) and Santa Cruz’s Sash Mill Cinema (also RIP) in my 20s confirmed it. The 2009 Criterion Blu-ray with its “restored high-definition digital transfer” supervised by Wenders was a revelation, looking almost better than it had on 35mm — but Wenders has restored Wings of Desire again, this time from the negative up. I’m a very different person at 45 than I was at 17, but I know it remains one of the most beautiful, heartfelt movies ever, and will always be just what I need.
Rated PG-13. Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.