Paris, Texas (1984)

Paris, Texas (1984), directed by Wim Wenders.

A man wandering in the Texas desert has gone feral. Not vicious, just withdrawn and mute, a face formed by hopelessness and suffering. He visibly flinches when he sees himself in a mirror and heads back out into the wilderness. It takes time to domesticate what has become wild.

The story proceeds in three acts: (1) Travis is collected by his brother who works hard to get him indoors and talking again, (2) their return to LA where Travis must be reacquainted with his young son, and (3) their road trip back to Texas to find Mom.

The story of this shattered family, how it broke apart and how it might be reassembled, is revealed slowly. In some ways it is a western; like The Searchers (1956) after the hero recovers the lost woman and returns her to her family, he turns and heads out again, alone.

A couple of bits I had forgotten:

After about 100 credits as a supporting and character actor, the great Harry Dean Stanton finally gets the lead in a role he believes in. Dean Stockwell, used to so many eccentric characters, gets to play a normal guy. Nastassja Kinski gets to be American and we welcome her. Great work from each of them.

Photographed by Wenders' long-time cameraman Robby Müller. I first saw most of these films on video tape and remembered nothing about their visual composition. In the Blu-ray era they are just gorgeous and I am amazed on what those two could do on the day of shooting, picking up beauty as they found it.

I did see this one in the theater, but to me it looks better on home video and also seems to run faster. 2h25m is probably too long for many viewers, but it did not seem overlong to me this time.

Ry Cooder provides a lovely, hurting slide guitar concerto with cantina music on the side. He says the main theme is adapted from Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground by Blind Willie Johnson, 1927.

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion with a meticulous commentary by the director wherein I learn: