The passages for each of the entries in the Book are as varied as the films themselves. Sometimes they’re informative, detailing the film in question from beginning to end and it’s importance in film lore, and sometimes they’re basically making excuses, trying to find things to say about the film since there’s really nothing to be said about it. And then you get the entries written by those that have not only seen the film, but love the film, and treat it with the reverence it deserves; so much so that you can’t help but be genuinely intrigued enough to want to see the film itself. Paris, Texas is one of those films, and one of those entries in the Book that has always interested me in a deep way, and I’m pleased that the film turned out to be pretty much what I had expected of it.
Harry Dean Stanton, in arguably his best role, is Travis, a man found wandering in the desert without saying a word, with no recollection of his name or his history. Picked up at a doctor’s, a small card in his wallet gets word to his brother Walt, who comes to fetch him and take him back to L.A. to reunite him with his son Hunter, whom he’d abandoned four years prior. The film then details the sprouting relationship between a father and the son he’d left behind, as they go on a cross-country trip to Texas to find the man’s wife and the boy’s mother. The best way I could describe the mood of this film is with the word “dreamy”. The phrase “poetic realism” has been thrown at many a film, but this is the best example of it I’ve seen in as many months. The slide guitar score by Ry Cooder helped set the mood immensely, and it was a constant highlight of the film. The other is Stanton himself, who shows that often the best performances are those that are treated with minimalism, rather than overblown spectacle. Extra kudos also go to Hunter Carson, the young child actor who plays Stanton’s son; it is by and large one of the best child performances I’ve seen in a long time. The film also has quite a bit of Texas scenery to show off, and it takes ample opportunities to do just that. The only thing I had against the film was that it didn’t really feel like it was worth the length it was; it was slightly stretched, which given that its director is European was mildly understandable.
I’ve seen two other films by director Wim Wenders, but this one by and large takes the cake for me. Even with the slightly longer than usual length, this was quite an endearing film, and a real pleasure to watch. Normally, when European directors make the transition to English-language films, they tend to sell out the very things that made them successful in Europe in favor of a more Hollywoodized approach, but it’s especially nice to see that Wenders decided not to go down that particular road. There’s a lot of things to like about this one, so give it a try, as long as you have the mind to it, and the wherewithal to make it through the running time.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10