Denis Hopper as Ripley sprawls across the pool table in his schloss, bouncing the white ball off the cushions- a games player, planning his strategy. I've seen this scene before- in some movie or other- but I can't think where. The movie is full of references to other movies- to cinema history. Jean Eustache gets a bit part just so Wenders can shoehorn another film director into his cast list.
Life is not only a game it's a movie. Different metaphor, same difference.
Among the movies Wenders quotes is his own Alice in the Cities. There's the line about "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself". There's the messing around with polaroids. Ripley, like the guy in Alice, is having a hard time knowing who he is. Maybe life is just a dream. That's an idea that gets kicked around in Alice too. The more than natural colours in American Friend suggest that ithis is not simply a dream but a lucid dream- meaning the dreamers know that they're dreaming and can shape the action. Or at least one of them does. Ripley, of course
At first showing Patricia Highsmith hated Hopper's version of Ripley. Not surprising really. The guy she had in her head would never have worn a cowboy hat. But then she saw the movie again and set aside the externals and realised that Hopper is just perfect.
Even when not he's not playing overty crazy Hopper has that vibe about him.
If you're in a dream you can do what the hell you want. Morals are for the unaware. Kill a bunch of cartoon gangsters. Drive the corpses to the nearest beach. Pour on petrol. Strike a light. Whoosh. What fun!
Watch that fucker burn...