Paris, Texas (1984)


Germany/France/USA; Wim Wenders


Parental Guidance - Brief Language; Sexual References




Travis (Harry Dean Stanton) is found wandering aimlessly in the shimmering immensity of the Texan desert. Shaken and mute, he is rescued by a dubious German doctor, who tracks Travis’ brother, Walt (Dean Stockwell) with the help of a phone number found in his coat. No one in the family has heard or seen from Travis in four years, since his marriage with Jane (Natassja Kinski) crumbled. As the family reunites eventually, and Travis lacerated psyche gradually heals, it is Jane’s absence that haunts the poor man’s dream. The brutal end of their love, his guilt, the desire to offer his estranged son Hunter the mother he never had… All these reasons coalesce and determine Travis to set out to find Jane across America in a desperate bid to pick up the pieces of his past and heal his scars, as well as the ones he inflicted to others.


Wender’s seminal Palme d’Or winning classic is now a milestone in arthouse cinema, and its individuality stems most probably from this odd and faintly disconcerting blend of European aestheticism and American sensibility. German auteur Wim Wenders sets his lacerating tale of loss and alienation against huge-horizoned, all-engulfing, shimmering American backdrops. By turns angry, menacing and soothing, the immensity of this limitless universe, coupled with Ry Cooder’s dry and strident guitar riffs, exude a slicing, deep sense of isolation and disquiet.


Another aspect that strikes the eye is the images perfect symmetry. There is a surprising geometry precision to each scene’s architecture, with its intersecting verticals, horizontals and obliques, which confers an attractive and reassuring rigidness. Paris, Texas is, visually at least, a crafted, meticulous work of art.


Unfortunately, story-wise, the ensemble never manages to fully capture the human vibration it strives for. There’s something wrong with the dynamics between its characters, a hum of unease, a lack of communication and fluency. It might be deliberate, but this awkward undertow seeps through the screen and wrecks the precarious, fragile equilibrium of the narrative. There are movies built on dense silences, on charged glances and non-dits but Paris, Texas was not supposed to be of them. It is when words are finally allowed to go wild - in two poignant, heart-rending scenes between Travis and his estranged wife - that the films really breaks its chains and throws off its shackles. And this is also when Wender’s arid, stark psychological drama veers towards a throbbing love story, one of the most powerful ever to be filmed.


Crippled as it may be a restraint that quickly gives way to a lack of emotional élan, Paris, Texas remains a thoroughly enticing sit. Even at its worst, there’s charm to be found in its contemplative, sad poetry. At its best, it is simply unforgettable.





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