Thursday, July 15, 2010

Paris, Texas (1984) DVD / a film by Wim Wenders; starring Harry Dean Stanton, Dean Rockwell, Nastassjia Kinski, Auroré Clement & Hunter Carson

Somewhere in the American Southwest, a man walks alone across the parched desert not knowing where he's from, where he's going or even his own name. Dissheveled and weatherbeaten, he continues on, trance-like in one direction across the sun-baked terrain finally stopping at an isolated outpost where, in a small general store, he passes out. Upon waking, the attending doctor can get neither word nor reaction from his severely malnourished but docile patient and, finding only a worn piece of paper with some contact info, calls the number which turns out to be the brother of the mute, who's finally identified as Travis Henderson.
Brother Walt Henderson arrives to meet Travis whom he hasn't seen for four years and, following an awkward period of greeting and reaquaintance with Walt basically having to talk Travis out of his suspended catatonic state, the pair travel back to Walt's Southern California home. Awaiting them are Walt's wife Anne and 7-year-old Hunter, Travis' biological son who's lived with his aunt and uncle ever since the dissolution of Travis' marriage, his mysterious disappearance and subsequent four-year stint spent wandering alone. Though wary and tentative of his father initially, young Hunter quickly warms to Travis who swiftly regains his bearings with the help of some old home movies and photo albums. After learning of the whereabouts of his (Travis') former wife Jane--also Hunter's mother, also estranged of late--the newly reunited father and son pair embark on a their own journey, one intended to reconnect with the third member of their formerly dissolved family unit living somewhere in Houston.
Paris, Texas isn't actually about the real-life town in the northeast corner of the state. Yet the title's paradoxical ring is well-understood through the movie's context. It's a film which is acutely conscious of reality, exploring emotions and relationships, families and obligations; observing the price of passion, the burden of existence and the saving grace of love through motifs of travel, architecture and geography. As much can be said about the movie apart from the spot-on acting, which is impeccable really in its simplistic approach. The visual scenes are rich in symbolic imagery and American iconography as perceived by an outsider; it's a French/German co-production headed by German director Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire) who does some of his best work here. Images show characters surrounded by vast, impersonal forms of modern skyscrapers and looming natural landforms, the cities perceivably as empty and dispassionate as the desert. Wenders' use of over 25 individual filming locations is one truly remarkable, if unorthodox, feat. All scenes were shot chronologically beginning in Texas' Big Bend country, running through Arizona and New Mexico and finally to the San Fernando Valley before returning to Houston for the final act. The effort and expense was, of course, well worth it: Paris, Texas won the Palme d'Or prize awarded at Cannes that year and is a timeless example of the power of independent cinema. (DVD PARIS)