Paris, Texas is a 1984 film directed by Wim Wenders. It’s a great cinematic experience and a beautiful film that certainly should belong to any film collection worthy of the name. It rewards on all levels- cinematography, story, acting, and heart – even soundtrack. The film takes you to an uncanny and exotic place, both literally and emotionally, and maintains its high-wire level of vivid authenticity for each and every one of its 147 minutes. Put simply, this is filmmaking at its very best – Paris, Texas surely earned its 1984 Palme d’Or.
It stars Harry Dean Stanton, Dean Stockwell, Nastassja Kinski, and Hunter Carson. The screenplay was written by L.M. Kit Carson and playwright Sam Shepard, and the distinctive musical score was composed by Ry Cooder. The cinematography was by Robby Müller. The film was a co-production between companies in France and West Germany, and was filmed in the United States.
This film is so articulate and so intense, and well nuanced. Just look at the two words together is something of an oxymoron. A comma between them becomes a pregnant pause. Two places couldn’t be further apart than Paris and Texas. We can’t seem to come to terms with its existence as a real place…but then we see the visual of that barren stretch of land. For a man named Travis and his son Hunter it becomes the center of their universe, the origin of all things, a place achingly unreachable, alive only in their dreams where they long to be with a woman named Jane in a faraway land where the purchase of a remote plot of dirt represents the key to a happiness that could never be.
Wow, so well thought about, and so delicate and emotionally nuanced that just talking about them runs the risk of them was losing some of their gracious images for from us… Such is the case with Wim Wender’s ‘Paris, Texas’, a part his ‘Road Movies series’. From Robbie Mueller’s breathtaking cinematography to Ry Cooder’s haunting musical score, everything in this film is an exercise in beauty. It’s a work of panoramic exquisiteness, one which archives the actual landscape, but also the landscape of the human heart. It conveys a disturbing yet gentle portrayal of desire, fatherhood, and loss with great lucidness and despair.
Quiet recently on my own exploration of my expanding lists of favorites, and the best films of 80’s was a very nostalgic dip and here with Wim Wander’s Paris Texas’ is hands down my pick for the greatest film of the decade and not realizing that I had missed so much many years back for flipping the movie in the screen in my home town. By the end of the movie, I was beside myself and re-watched the entire film from the beginning the very next day when it was watched a copy of DVD of this movie…. And will surely watch it yet again.
This is the story of Travis Henderson (Harry Dean Stanton), a loner and drifter with obvious psychological and emotional issues, who resurfaces after a four year absence. Where has he been? Nobody knows. But his brother Walt (Dean Stockwell) picks him up from the dusty plains of Texas and drives him back to Los Angeles. While Travis remains mostly mute, he does reveal that he’s purchased a small piece of land in Paris, Texas. Paris, Texas is where Walt and Travis’ parents first made love. It’s where Travis hopes to one day settle down.
Once back in Los Angeles, Travis is reintroduced to his young son, Hunter (Hunter Carson), who has no memories of his father and only knows what his uncle and aunt (Aurore Clément) tell him. Walt has been taking care of Hunter since Travis’ disappearance and he treats Hunter like his son. Travis has returned to rediscover his life and undo the past as best he can. As virtual strangers, Hunter and Travis begin to build a wary friendship and conspire to locate his estranged wife Jane (Natassja Kinski) who disappeared sending Travis on his own lost journey into Hades.
We find Travis is a disaster, and emotionally vacant to everyone, even Hunter. The film takes us on an emotional rollercoaster as the mysteries unfold of what he may or may not have done in his past, what he wanted to do with his life and his motivations to put his family back together are slowly and painfully revealed. The last 20 minutes of this film is soul-wrenching, and in one of the most emotionally revealing and poetic conversations ever captured on the screen.
Wim Wenders, is a German director known for his famous films “Wings of Desire”, “Atlantic City”, “Kings of the Road” and “Paris, Texas”. In the space of the leisurely time of our lives is what the movie set in, and sets out the same way as traces swept long away… Hats off to the brilliant effort from the director, who uses time luminously, backdrop in nuanced details on a vast canvas; we’re well into the movie before Travis, the protagonist even speaks. The austere Texas landscapes Travis wanders seem haunted by an exquisite spiritual longing and emptiness, perfectly majestic and perfectly designed to torment him.
The performances are extraordinary, and especially Harry Dean Stanton as Travis and Natassja Kinski (Daughter of the great German actor Klaus Kinski) as Jane, the film also boasts a soundtrack by Ry Cooder, ideally suited to the film’s sun-bleached landscapes and melancholy undertones
Surely the audience who surrender to the spell of this movie will wear their emotions outside their skin; there is vulnerability, openness, and poignancy that is sometimes almost unendurable. This film is indeed a meditative piece on the loss of self, memory and Travis’ attempt to reclaim what is lost after trauma.
Yes…Paris, Texas…I’ve been there, and it is wonderful. If you’ve never been, you’ll never know…so visit soon and visit often. When you layover in one of that scape of an open thoroughfare… You know what I mean!!
A film working on so many levels like this is best summed up in its own dialogue. In one scene where Travis is drunk and telling his son some family history, he essentially says that his father was more in love with an “idea of her” than with his actual mother. This is a fantastic movie for people more in love with the romantic “idea of movies” and their potential power as an art form than with any one movie in particular. As such, this ranks among the best I have ever seen…. Oh gorgeous……………..
- Directed by Wim Wenders
- Produced by Anatole Dauman & Don Guest
- Written by L. M. Kit Carson & Sam Shepard
- Casting: Harry Dean Stanton, Nastassja Kinski & Dean Stockwell
- Music by Ry Cooder
- Cinematography by Robby Müller
- Editing by Peter Przygodda
- Studio: Channel Four Films
- Distributed by Tobis (West Germany); Argos Films (France); Axiom Films (UK and Ireland) & 20th Century Fox (US)
- Release dates: May 19, 1984 (Cannes); September 19, 1984 (France); November 9, 1984 (US) & January 11, 1985 (West Germany)
- Running time of 147 minutes
- Country: West Germany, France, United Kingdom & United States
- Language: English