The Pixels of Paul Cézanne by Wim Wenders – Book Review

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The Pixels of Paul Cézanne: and Reflections on Other Artists by Wim Wenders

Book Review

by Barney Bardsley

Reading this book of essays by German film maker Wim Wenders is a little like watching one of his films. There are pauses, circlings, reflective imaginings – spaces between the thoughts, like the deserted landscapes of Paris, Texas, or the dreamy aerial longshots of Wings of Desire. Wenders is a poet of the big screen. And that poetry reveals itself here, in words. Also, he is a man who cares deeply about his craft, and about the nature, not just of film making, but of human creativity itself. In essence, this is a book about love.

“Much to fascinate”

Because this is a highly personal collection, reflective of Wenders’ influences – the artists who have made him an artist – it is not really a book for the general reader. But if you love his films, and want a glimpse into the way a great auteur’s mind works, you will find much to fascinate. And since it is published ahead of his latest fiction film, Submergence, due for general release in 2018, reading this, and then watching the new film, will provide a particularly rich and textured experience of Wim Wenders’ world view.

Pixels of Paul Cézanne wim wenders book review coverThe most fascinating piece comes at the very start of the book. Entitled ‘I write, therefore I think’, it will resonate with all those people, who need, either in private, or professionally, to get their thoughts written down, in order to make any sense of their world: “It’s only when I write that I can think things through to their conclusion”.

“Eloquent”

But for Wenders, pen on paper doesn’t cut it – he needs his machines. First the typewriter, in the early days, then the computer, have come to his assistance, bringing both clarity and flexibility to his thought processes. Then there is the most important machine of all – his camera. And he moves with his camera, the way he moves through his mind. It’s a mysterious, fluid, slightly detached process, which he explains here, when he sets out the link between the thought, the written word, and the director’s vision:

”My writing needs this freedom to move (as well),
these tracking shots, if you like.
I need to be able to ‘circle’ an idea
or see it ‘from above’
in order to gradually reach it,
or keep my distance
so it can come to life.”

This is a rare insight into the creative process of a master film maker – eloquent in its concision, revelatory and remote, all at the same time.

There is much to delight in this enigmatic little book – including the title essay on Paul Cézanne, where he marvels at the nature of painting, and how it has been transformed (and in some ways all but destroyed) by the advent of digital technology. But it is the opening essay that is perhaps the most revealing about a man, whose intellectual rigour and artistic questioning is exceeded only by his most admirable and touching quality: a tender affection for his art, and for humanity itself.

‘The Pixels of Paul Cézanne: and Reflections on Other Artists’ by Wim Wenders is published by Faber & Faber, £14.99, ISBN: 9780571336463

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