Christmas angels

Plenty of award-season movies arrive in theaters today, but you don’t have to leave your paper-strewn home to uphold the holy tradition of ponderous cinema on December 25. The ponderous can also be poetic, if your existential stocking stuffer is Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, in which black-garbed, empathic angels walk, invisible, among the living. The German director’s secular but spiritual examination of thought, fate and mortality was the quintessential art-house film of the 1980s. And for good reason: Cinematographer Henri Alekan (who shot Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast) fashions a nationalism-haunted Berlin that’s both stern and sensuous, and Wenders’ script, written with novelist Peter Handke, juggles hope and despair with the philosophical musings of Peter Falk (playing himself; don’t ask — it works). If Wenders fails to keep aloft all of his symbols or leaves too much room for inexpert ad-libbing, he also achieves something elegant and durable that’s strangely holiday-appropriate: a meeting of Rainer Maria Rilke and Frank Capra. Look for it at SRO Video (402 East Gregory, 816-444-2212), which opens at noon today. Or just pick up a season of Columbo.

Thu., Dec. 25, 2008