Paris, Texas encapsulates a beauty and fascination that is only found in certain areas of North America – rolling landscapes and breath-taking desert land found mainly in the West and Southwest of the country, sprawled out and beckoning exploration. The poetic imagery is a result of Wim Wenders’ photographic direction as is evident in much of the German’s previous work, but in a setting never seen before. Texas is an unusual part of the world for Wenders, having only filmed in America once before this one, for Hammett – circulating around a San Francisco-based detective. Wenders’ American road movie, written by Sam Shepard and L.M. Kit Carson, might be the most powerful directional achievement of the filmmaker’s career.
The film stirs up an intense yearning to watch the land simply unfold before the viewer’s eyes. The film evokes an attachment to the sleepy, ragged and deserted nature of the Southwest with more intensity than most. Perhaps this has something to do with Wenders’ admiration for American films, or maybe it came from an intrigue that emerged as a result of his German background — a cultural upbringing and a country greatly detached from a place as distant and forlorn as Texas.
Paris, Texas opens with a starved and gaunt Travis Henderson (Harry Dean Stanton) staggering alone over a seemingly endless desert landscape. From these first few moments, the protagonist collapses, is taken to hospital, reunites with his brother, is driven to Los Angeles, reunites with his lost son, sets off on a journey cross-country, reunites with his abandoned wife, confesses everything, before driving out into the wilderness.
This is evidently storytelling at its best. Though a story exploring the heart of Middle America more effectively that any road movie before it, it also serves as an examination of the people it surrounds, aided by a remarkably understated performance from Harry Dean Stanton, bringing to life a character placed beside Wenders’ stunning imagery, conjuring up feelings of loss, aimless searching and unspecified wandering as is always expected in any of the director’s efforts. Beside Stanton, excellent performances from Dean Stockwell and Hunter Carson along with a brief yet alluring act by Nastassja Kinski as Travis’ wife, turn Paris, Texas into an inarguable masterpiece.
There is certainly poetry to be found in the rocks, the dust and the vacant lot. The visual beauty of Paris, Texas alludes a world of misplacement, love and loss. Travis – the story’s centrepiece – roams and travels while images of the coarse and inexplicable vastness of the world that surrounds him throw the viewer into a state of longing and regret.
Paris, Texas at IMDb
Paris, Texas at Wikipedia
Paris, Texas at Rotten Tomatoes
Paris, Texas (awards won and nominated for) at IMDb
Paris, Texas the official site
Wim Wnders’ official site at wim-wenders.com