Palermo is a visually stunning meditation on living life to the fullest. It’s also refreshingly dark, brooding and a little disorienting, though nearly to the point of self-indulgence.
When photog star Finn’s perfect existence comes up existentially short, his dreams begin bleeding into his waking life, an inconvenience further complicated by a shadowy assassin intent on permanently relieving his misery. Perhaps confessing his own misdeeds, Wenders explores the superficiality of art in a thoughtful, nearly apologetic manner, and the gloriously angsty soundtrack (conveyed ingeniously through Finn’s omnipresent ear buds) should be making Cameron Crowe shake his fist indignantly right about now.
Cameos by Milla Jovovich as herself and Lou Reed as a sage specter mesh perfectly with the ethereal, subdued vibe, and the German and Italian backdrops provide both old-world beauty and vague foreboding. Unfortunately, Dennis Hopper is woefully out of place as Death, who sporadically shows up to fire warning shots both metaphorically and literally at the protagonist before gnawing the scenery to a pulp in a speech lamenting how he just can’t get no respect. It’s an awkward and aggrandized ending, and with it, the illusion vanishes like a dream with the dawn.