Land of Plenty Wim Wenders

Wim Wenders has paid dearly for his mid-period triumph Wings of Desire — everything after that has seemed like a falling off, lacking the conceptual force of his earlier films and seeming facile and artificial to boot. Thus I was pleasantly surprised by Land of Plenty, which if not the return to glory that the director still needs is still far more grim and purposeful than most of his recent output. Set in Los Angeles, it takes two opposing sensibilities and pits them against each other: shell-shocked ’Nam vet Paul (John Diehl), who has done obsessive impromptu "homeland security” surveillance ever since 9/11, and his niece Lana (Michelle Williams), a missionary just returned from the West Bank who’s working in a soup kitchen. When the pair witnesses the drive-by shooting of a homeless Arab man they both want to know more — Paul suspects a terrorist cell, while Lana simply wants to return the body to whatever family he has left. To be sure, the deck is stacked towards touchy-feely liberal Lana, and however much I may agree with her viewpoint there’s no denying that the lopsidedness of the narrative is a little too much. Still, I can’t remember the last film that stayed on the poor side of town longer than this movie. Even as the writing falters, the total commitment to the milieu raises it out of the muck, making it come the closest to recapturing the alienated anomie of Wenders’ early work than anything he’s done since Wings. It’s not perfect but it has its morose qualities. Extras include an informative but rambling commentary with Wenders, a ten-minute "making of” that’s mostly director/star interviews, and eight deleted scenes. (Alliance Atlantis)