About Grant

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New York, NY, United States
Film director and screenwriter. Cinephile since birth. Director of DREAMS OF THE WAYWARD (2013). Film Studies MA student at Columbia University.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Most Important Film You Will Ever Experience (Part 4: Luis Buñuel's "Belle de jour")

 Before saying that a film is important, the term "important" must be defined.  Is it artistically brilliant as a film?  Is the film life affirming?  Is the film life changing?  Does the film live beyond its date of release?  Does the film capture a time or place in society and history?  Does the film challenge the audience?  If it can fit into most of these categories, then it simply must be important.
 To quote the great Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, "The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good."  On that note, the fourth film in my collection of important films is:
Luis Buñuel's Belle de jour (1967)


 Highly controversial for its time, Luis Buñuel's Belle de jour (1967) is a landmark film within Buñuel's career and the history of cinema.  Winner of the Golden Lion at Venice in 1967, Belle de jour marked Buñuel's official return to France, his first film in color, and was scandalously a film about female sexuality.  Though the topical nature of the film is intensely mature, it is portrayed on the screen and within the script with great respect and taste.  Beginning Buñuel's streak of French masterpieces, Belle de jour is a wild film that blends the line between reality and fantasy with seamless finesse.
 Starring Catherine Deneuve as Séverine (a.k.a. "Belle de jour" or as translated "Daylight Beauty") is a married woman with a loving husband named Pierre (Jean Sorel) who is a doctor in Paris.  Living as a wealthy young couple with a maid, Séverine spends her days at home or out shopping as she awaits the return of her husband at 5:00 each day.  Implied to have been happening for years, at the opening of the film Séverine has a reoccurring dream that involves her being beaten for pleasure.  She does not understand the dreams, and - as revealed after this particular dream - has difficulty opening herself up to intimacy with her husband.
 Over the weekend, she and Pierre go out and run into a couple they both know.  The girl is friendly, but the boyfriend named Husson (Michel Piccoli) is very openly attracted to Séverine - something Pierre does't notice.  When Séverine and Pierre leave back to their home, Séverine's dreams continue.  Upon bumping into Husson the next day, he mentions to Séverine the name of a local brothel which both strikes her imagination and disturbs her... yet she goes to the brothel out of curiosity anyways.  Agreeing to be a regular prostitute at the brothel in exchange for 50% of her earnings, she is named "Belle de jour" since she will only be at the brothel until 5:00 each day so that she may return home to her husband without his knowledge.  From that point forward, the film becomes an engrossing experience that bears comparison to thrillers while still embodying the dramatic genre.
 What makes this film particularly special is that sex is never portrayed on screen in any fashion.  It is certainly implied to have happened, but there isn't even a speck of sexual nudity in this film (had there been, this easily could have turned into smut if the director had been interested in low-brow entertainment).  Instead, Belle de jour focuses upon the inner psychological battles of a sexually disturbed woman.  Though not a significant reveal, it is shown early on that Séverine may have been sexually assaulted as a young girl which made her feel filthy before God and possibly triggered her desire for unconventional love as she got older.  Her masochistic desires are best clarified by film scholar Linda Williams in The Criterion Collection's documentary entitled That Obscure Sense of Desire, "[Séverine] had this moment of molestation in her past which actually opened up a door to a forbidden pleasure.  What she has to do is... discover a way to open up her pleasures."
 As typical of Buñuel's films, Belle de jour also depicts the wealthy class in a satirical style.  This is best reflected in his previous films Viridiana (1961) and The Exterminating Angel (1963) and would be expanded upon with his later films The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) and his final film That Obscure Object of Desire (1979).  Though Belle de jour does not hinge upon that concept as his other films do, it is a present subtext within the activity on the screen.
 The film is also one of Buñuel's most visually beautiful films.  His subtle use of vibrant colors (particularly red) reflects the inner passion that Séverine would like to experience on the outside.  Belle de jour also features magnificent camera movements as the camera steadily observes a horse-driven buggy as it goes down a dirt path at the opening of the film, or as the camera dollies out from two men as they have a pistol duel.  Through the artistry of Buñuel, his screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, and his cinematographer Sacha Vierny, any misinterpretation of the purpose of Belle de jour is immediately proven incorrect as the subject matter is handled with such care.
 The impact of this film upon modern cinema is vast, but there are many notable films which owe great credit and even reference Belle de jour within their content.  Most notably may be Stanley Kubrick's final film Eyes Wide Shut (1999) with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.  Similarly beautifully shot and carefully handled (though much more explicit in content), Eyes Wide Shut follows a man who discovers that his wife had a deeply passionate fantasy about a random navy officer she once saw while on vacation with her kids and husband.  A vast majority of Kubrick's film is thematically dedicated to the promiscuous side of "all women" that men seem to believe does't exist.
 Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar's 2009 film Broken Embraces starring Penélope Cruz draws direct comparison to Belle de jour.  In need of money to help her father receive medical treatment for his cancer, Lena Rivero (Penélope Cruz) revisits a call-girl company that she used to work for under the name of "Séverine" (an obvious allusion to Catherine Deneuve's character of the same name).  A simple allusion like that automatically pays tribute to Buñuel's film while enhancing the way that a film like Broken Embraces should be interpreted.
 Interestingly enough, both Eyes Wide Shut and Broken Embraces also lend themselves to comparison with thrillers and noir films in a similar fashion as Belle de jour.
 Likewise, Buñuel seems to give a nod to the French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard within Belle de jour.  Godard's debut film Breathless (1960) shook the film world with its approach to presenting narrative.  In one of the early scenes of Breathless, French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo runs into an old girlfriend who is selling The New York Herald Tribune.  Though, in Belle de jour, a man is selling The New York Herald Tribune, it is difficult to argue that it is mere coincidence that Buñuel would feature that without being an allusion to Godard within his return to French filmmaking.
 Belle de jour is a dramatic powerhouse, and a perfect example of Buñuel's surrealist style as the truth is bent between fantasy and actual tangibility.  In a role that Catherine Deneuve is still iconic for today, it is obvious why her performance - and this film - have still held up nearly fifty years later.
 Though risky in its context, it is the mark of a great filmmaker (even one as controversial as Buñuel) for him to make a film so tastefully 'naughty'.  


Belle de jour is now available on DVD and Blu Ray by The Criterion Collection.
http://www.criterion.com/films/27949-belle-de-jour
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061395/

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Film Review: "Harakiri" (1962) directed by Masaki Kobayashi 5/5

  Winner of the Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 1963, Harakiri (1962) easily proves to be more than just a simple samurai film.  Directed by Masaki Kobayashi - the director of the 9 hour 47 minute epic The Human Condition (1959-61) - Harakiri is a vivid depiction of two paths in ancient Japanese life: the path of humanity, and the path of the samurai.
 Set in 1630, Harakiri follows a starved rõnin (masterless samurai) from Hiroshima named Tsugumo (Tatsuya Nakadai) who arrives at Lord Iyi's fortress in Edo seeking a place where he can peacefully commit harakiri.  Upon arriving, Tsugumo is informed of the corrupt nature of rõnin in the area who have been threatening to commit harakiri but pull out in exchange for a few coins.  However, there is one rõnin named Chijiiwa (Akira Ishihama) who recently performed a long and painful harakiri with a bamboo sword.  Chijiiwa expressed great cowardice prior to his harakiri as he requested to run away promising that he would return, but he was forced to proceed with his honorable suicide by samurai code.  Discouraged from performing harakiri to end his life, Tsugumo sticks to his guts and continues to urge for his request to commit harakiri to be accepted.  With great reluctance, the counselor of Iyi grants him permission to commit honorable suicide in the courtyard.
 The events that follow are a series of scheduling dilemmas as the man that Tsugumo would like to cut his head off is not available due to a severe illness.  After naming off two more samurai to cut his head off (both of which are also unavailable due to illness), the counselor begins to grow suspicious of Tsugumo's true motives.  To prove himself to be worthy of an honorable death in their courtyard, Tsugumo recounts the tragic tale that brought him to the point of a fully-desired harakiri.
 It is from that point of the film that Harakiri becomes less a film about samurai culture and more of a film about life in feudal Japan.  Dedicating a fair 90 minutes to Tsugumo's account of the best days of his life all the way to the tragic ending of his good fortune, as an audience this sequence is beautiful and rewarding.  Up until that point, only one harakiri has been seen (the bamboo sword harakiri at the beginning of the film), so there is no reason to believe that this film contains vivid action sequences.  The entire film has a constant layer of tension bearing over the events on the screen as the audience (and the characters) await Tsugumo's harakiri.  It's in the final twenty minutes that all the build up pays off with a fantastic twist.
 With fantastic performances from the entire cast, it is the lead actor Nakadai who truly steals the show as both a father and a grandfather before tragedy befalls his family.  His character embodies the entire theme of the film as he points out the flawed nature of the samurai path by living a life so fruitful and rewarding.  The camera even pans from the left (Tsugumo) to the right (counselor) when Tsugumo speaks justifying that what he is telling the counselor is true like a book.
 Harakiri is a film about the samurai code, but it is primarily a film about dignity, parenting, and honor.  Acknowledging the samurai code, Tsugumo sees the value in the council of Iyi's beliefs, but he challenges the rationality of forcing a man willing to disembowel himself to do it immediately without questioning as to why he wanted to leave (referring to Chijiiwa).  This film is loaded with complexities hidden within the subtleties.
 One of the best elements of this film is director Kobayashi's decisions on what to show and what to cut away from.  At times, the cutting of this film is as abrupt as the cutting of the swords in the film.  Choosing to show the buildup to a sword duel and then cutting away from the scene the moment before their swords first clash is oddly satisfying as we (the audience) are constantly aware that the events on the screen are being recounted by an honorable narrator who will tell us what he chooses to tell us without embellishments (compared to Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950) which features three unreliable narrators who twist the truth).
 One of the greatest action scenes from this film (other than the final battle) is Tsuguomo's duel with Omodaka (Tetsuro Tamba) in which they confront in a field in the rolling-hills outside of Edo.  The wind is raging as they clash swords with beautiful choreography.
 Harakiri is a film rarely spoken of in the modern realm of cinema, which is odd since the film's influence is obvious upon modern films.  Everything from the final battle in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill (2003) to the Wachowski Brothers' The Matrix Reloaded (2003) clearly took inspiration from this powerful non-traditional samurai film.  Though there is little violence in Harakiri, what violence there is crosses into both the super realistic and the fantastically choreographed.  Being shot in black and white adds a historical beauty to the entire film, but it oddly seems to intensify the violence as well.  Kobayashi's filming style for Harakiri benefits from black and white because of his visceral and emotional style of filmmaking, whereas other film directors would need to film in color to convey the bloody battles with the same gut wrenching result as Kobayashi.
 Harakiri may not be for everyone, but it is a prime example of a film greater than its genre as it challenges the samurai code of honor (the very hinge that the film hangs upon) while being a film more focused upon the personal life of a former samurai.

http://www.criterion.com/films/743-harakiri?q=autocomplete
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056058/

My ranking: 5/5

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Film Review: "Throne of Blood" (1957) directed by Akira Kurosawa 5/5

  Had Shakespeare been a feudal Japanese playwright rather than the European that we know him to be, then Akira Kurosawa's adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth - entitled Throne of Blood (1957) - is the closest that we will get. This is possibly one of the greatest film portrayals of Macbeth, in that Throne of Blood is distinctly its own film while still holding true to the basic plot of Shakespeare's classic tragedy.  Naturally - as the title would imply - blood will be shed for the throne sealing the destiny of many and resulting in self-fulfilled prophecy as well.
 Starring the always magnificent actor Toshirõ Mifune in the lead role as Washizu (Macbeth), Washizu is the general of the first fortress of Spider Web Castle.  After defending the fortress against the approaching armies of the local enemy Inui, Washizu and the general of the second fortress (Miki) are on their way to Spider Web Castle to report to the Great Leader of their triumph in battle.  However, on the way to the castle, both of them get lost in Spider Web Forest (known for its misleading paths) and encounter an evil spirit that tells both of them their future.  The spirit tells Washizu that he will soon be the Lord of the North Castle and that Miki will be promoted to the first fortress.  Both of them are skeptical, but the evil spirit continues with his prophecies by stating that Washizu will eventually be promoted to the Great Leader of Spider Web Castle and that Miki's son would be the the Great Leader after Washizu passes away.
 The events that follow are a series of self-fulfilled prophecy as leaders are murdered and positions of hierarchy are negotiated over.  
 Filmed in black and white, director Akira Kurosawa used this to his advantage by allowing layers of fog and smoke to separate the screen in many scenes.  At times, the layers of fog and smoke are so thick that the audience is as lost as the characters as they ride to Spider Web Castle.  The fog also adds a level of horror to the scenes with the evil spirit (specifically during the spirit's supernatural moments).  As the evil spirit morphs into kabuki warrior style appearances, lightning is striking and rain is pouring only adding to the intensity of Washizu's meeting with this ancient spirit.
 Notably, there are also many riveting tracking shots as Washizu runs out of the gate of the North Castle with sword in hand, and when he rides his horse towards the camera in hot pursuit of the rightful heir to the throne.  These camera movements intensify the scene while adding an aware sense of artistry.  Simply showing Washizu on a horse in full samurai armor would be exciting, but the tracking camera heightens the action and adds an extra dimension to the events on the screen.
 Toshirõ Mifune - an actor who has been in many lead roles in Kurosawa's films such as Stray Dog (1949), Rashomon (1950), and most famously Seven Samurai (1954) - is essentially Kurosawa's Robert De Niro.  His versatility in every film role is remarkable as he shifts his hair styles and facial hair to fit into the soul of the character.  Only three years after Kurosawa's samurai epic Seven Samurai, Toshirõ validates his abilities again by transforming from a rebellious wannabe-samurai into a samurai general for Throne of Blood.  As Washizu, Toshirõ captures the essence of a power hungry leader, but he also masterfully captures the inner battles taking place within his Macbeth based character.  The paranoia that he experiences as he thinks he sees the ghost of his friend (whom he betrayed) is completely believable... but much of the credit has to go to director Akira Kurosawa.
 What separates Akira Kurosawa from other jidaigeki directors (samurai movie filmmakers) is that Kurosawa is not as concerned with the samurai as other Japanese filmmakers.  Kurosawa is always more concerned with the humans under the armor rather than romanticizing the samurai bushido.  With Throne of Blood being based upon Shakespeare, American and European audiences could relate to the film while Japanese audiences would be able to relate to the highly dramatic samurai setting of the film.
 Inspired by Kurosawa's samurai films Yojimbo (1961) and Sanjuro (1962), legendary western filmmaker Sergio Leone changed the western in the same way that Kurosawa changed the samurai film.  Sergio Leone's Fistful of Dollars (1964), For A Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966) are all brilliant films because they relied less upon the actual wild west and more upon character development.  The cowboy is the American samurai, but the only great westerns are the ones like Sergio Leone's Clint Eastwood epics.
 Throne of Blood is a samurai epic that is much more than just a samurai film because of its Shakespearean roots, but its at Kurosawa's credit that the film is as perfectly executed.  While maintaining the history and culture of Japan, Kurosawa masterfully adapts Shakespeare into the roots of Japan making Throne of Blood an instant classic and dramatic achievement.


http://www.criterion.com/films/735-throne-of-blood?q=autocomplete
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050613/


My ranking: 5/5

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Most Important Film You Will Ever Experience (Part 3: Frank Capra's "It's A Wonderful Life")

 Before saying that a film is important, the term "important" must be defined.  Is it artistically brilliant as a film?  Is the film life affirming?  Is the film life changing?  Does the film live beyond its date of release?  Does the film capture a time or place in society and history?  Does the film challenge the audience?  If it can fit into most of these categories, then it simply must be important.
 To quote the great Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, "The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good."  On that note, the third film in my collection of important films is:
Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life (1946)


 Starring James Stewart as George Bailey and Donna Reed as Mary, Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life (1946) is a prime example of a film that lives beyond its time period.  With archetypal characters representing all walks of life, It's A Wonderful Life could be described as a classic battle of good vs evil disguised as a post-WWII drama.
 On one side of the spectrum is the charismatic and ambitious George Bailey who desires to be an architect (and an explorer/ world traveler), but wound up standing up for what was right and saving his father's family-owned Bailey Building and Loan Association after he passed away.  
 On the opposing side is Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore), a life-long rival to the values that the Bailey Building and Loan has stood for.  When an $8,000 deposit goes missing (accidentally ending up in Mr. Potter's hands, which is never revealed to the other characters), George Bailey decides that his life isn't worth living anymore.  Just as he's about to kill himself by jumping into freezing water below a bridge, Clarence (Henry Travers) falls into the water from the sky.  George's good-natured self jumps in after Clarence and saves him, only to discover that Clarence is his guardian angel.  When asked by Clarence why he was about to jump, George states "I wish I'd never been born".  Clarence, seeking to earn his wings, sees this as a prime opportunity to demonstrate his worth... and with a violent gust of wind the snow stops and the world has instantly transformed into a dismal place as George Bailey witnesses the role that his existence played in his community.
 One of the many remarkable aspects of this film is that the conflict doesn't actually start until the 80 minute mark (meaning only 50 minutes are devoted to the conflict and resolution).  At the opening of the film, everyone in Bedford Falls can be heard praying for George Bailey's safety, but up until the bumbling Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) accidentally misplaces the $8,000 deposit 80 minutes into the film, the entire film is an inciting incident.  In-between the beginning of the film and the deposit accident, the audience is being introduced to every facet of George Bailey's life (from the day that 12 year old George saves his brother from drowning in 1919 to the day of the misplaced deposit in 1945).
 Many viewers who may have not seen this film in a while (or never seen it at all) may ignore It's A Wonderful Life because of its Christmas atmosphere, when in reality only the final 40 minutes of the film are actually set in the context of Christmas.  The Christmas atmosphere is used as an emotional device (as the events of Christmas bear little significance to the plot), and it is in the spirit of Christmas that this film maintains popularity due to the family-oriented story.
 Highly detail-based and emotionally gripping (as well as highly inventive), It's A Wonderful Life is a film that relies upon parallelism and concealed repetition to drive the events on the screen.  With an overwhelming cast, characters like Sam Wainwright (Frank Albertson) and Violet Bick (lorna Grahame) stand out because of their detail based character development.  Everything from Sam's catchphrase "he-haw" to Violet's flirtatious behaviors are depicted within the first 15 minutes of the film and are used as constant identifying motifs as time moves forward throughout the film.  However, those details are merely surface level.  
 Events depicted at the beginning of the film such as when George saves his brother from drowning and loses his hearing in his left ear come back into play when George jumps into freezing water again to save Clarence.  When George wishes that he had never been born (after saving Clarence), suddenly his hearing returns.
 Almost as if the film references the Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, George Bailey is brought by the angel Clarence to see everyone that he knew in his life (still skeptical that he had never been born) and he is given the "gift" to see what the world would be like without him.  His friends don't know who he is, his wife doesn't recognize him, and Bedford Falls is now owned by Mr. Potter and called "Pottersville" (and the city has become a place of debauchery).  One of the most pivotal reveals is in George's visit to the cemetery where he finds his brother's gravestone.  Because George was never born, his brother drowned in 1919 (though the scene has a very different context than Dickens' A Christmas Carol, it serves a very similar function in making the protagonist - Scrooge - realize how valuable his life is when he is shown his own tombstone by the third ghost of Christmas).
 Though It's A Wonderful Life is 66 years old, the film still holds up today due to its timeless message about kindness and the impact that one person's life can have upon the world.  Surprisingly, this film was not initially received with open arms (though it was nominated for five Oscars including best picture).  Today, this film still lives on as an image of the American dream and as an important tale of one man's struggle to discover his worth.
 There are George Baileys and Mr. Potters all around us, and this American masterpiece shows the influence of leaders in society and reveals that joy is not found within monetary wealth but rather in the lives of those around us.


It's A Wonderful Life
A Christmas Carol

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Film Review: "The Game" (1997) directed by David Fincher 4.9/5

 In Nicholas Van Orton's (Michael Douglas) initial quest to discover what 'the game' is, he is told be a previous player that the answer is found in John 9:25 saying "Whereas once I was blind, but now I see."  David Fincher's fourth film The Game (1997) is a thriller that is both smart in a literal and subtextual sense.
 Starring Michael Douglas as a wealthy investment banker named Nicholas Van Orton, The Game begins on his 48th birthday.  Closed off from the world and purposefully isolated, Nicholas worships his wealth and his self-importance.  When invited to lunch by his brother Conrad (Sean Penn), Nicholas is given a card for a company called CRS (Consumer Recreation Services).  Conrad tells Nicholas that CRS will change his life, but Nicholas is suspicious as to what CRS actually is.  The next day, Nicholas goes to work and overhears two of his co-workers talking about their experiences with CRS's game.  He confronts them and discovers that every person who participates in CRS's game has a different experience catered to the life of the applicant.  Upon learning this, Nicholas accidentally stumbles upon CRS's offices (oddly situated on the 14th level of the building he works at) and signs up for his game immediately, but only to have his application denied.  Little did he know, his game had actually just begun.  The events that follow cross the lines of the heinous as Nicholas tries to protect himself from a game that could redeem his soul.  The Game also has an incredibly dramatic twist-ending (which I won;t give away).


 Nicholas Van Orton is described by his brother Conrad as being "the man who has everything", so being rejected by CRS as the first part of his game is an essential element to the theme of the film.  Living in his father's mansion, Nicholas begins to realize that he and his father (who committed suicide at age 48) may be very similar.  Divorced by his wife because he was so focused on his money, Nicholas has no one except his maid who has worked for his family since he was a boy.  Nicholas resents his brother, Conrad, because of his lack of ambition as he never went to college and had a period of drug addiction a few years before.  
 Haunted by the memory of his father's suicide, the game could be the one thing that can save Nicholas from suffering the same fate as his father before him.


 Though The Game is a more mainstream Hollywood film, Fincher's artistry still shines through.  The cinematographer, Harris Savides (who also filmed Fincher's 2007 film Zodiac), beautifully captures the darkness of wealth with an almost Godfather-esque visual style.  Sure, the film is nowhere near as visually dark as Coppola's The Godfather (1972), but The Game depicts the cool leather chairs and deep mahogany desks with a sophistication and vicious quality.  The flashbacks to the day of Nicholas' father's suicide were filmed in a super 8 film reel style which makes the footage both eerie yet sentimental.  Set against Howard Shore's haunting piano score, the music amplifies the emotional resonance of these flashback sequences.
 Michael Douglas is wonderful in this film.  Michael, as a persona, is a master at portraying the wealthy with his  class and sophistication (Gordon Gekko etc).  When the game enters his life, his transformation from cool and collected transforms into paranoia.  Specifically in his scenes with Sean Penn, Michael Douglas delivers a riveting performance as a man conflicted with his emotions towards his family.
 Almost for the ending alone, The Game is a must-see (yet the film is so much more than just a great ending).  Filled with depth and wonderful character development, The Game is a thriller masterpiece which established Fincher's status as a director worth watching.


http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119174/


My ranking: 4.9/5

Friday, March 9, 2012

Film Review: "Paris, Texas" (1984) directed by Wim Wenders 5/5

 One of the few films in the history of cinema to unanimously receive the Palme d'Or at Cannes, German filmmaker Wim Wenders' 1984 drama entitled Paris, Texas captures a colorful depiction of life in a growing world and a desire for things to be as they once were.  Nostalgia is at the very center of this film - which is beautifully written by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Sam Shepard and L.M. Kit Carson.  Though the film leaves many questions for the audience, Paris, Texas leaves a lasting impression upon viewers through its soul-penetrating visuals and performances that strike at the heart.
 Wandering through the desert, Travis (Harry Dean Stanton) has been living a mindless-nomadic lifestyle for the past four years.  When he is found half dead in the desert of Texas, his brother - Walt (Dean Stockwell) - is notified of his location and flies from California to Texas to pick him up.  Upon being reunited with his brother, Walt discovers that Travis seems to be in a state of shock.  Travis doesn't speak, doesn't take direction, and is constantly trying to leave Walt's presence.  When Walt reminds Travis that he abandoned his three year old son, Hunter (Hunter Carson), more than four years ago, Travis suddenly breaks out of his shell as he realizes what harm he may have done to Hunter.  As Hunter approaches his eighth birthday, Hunter is re-introduced to Travis - his real father.  Though Hunter sees Travis as an odd person at first, he gradually grows to identify him as his other dad.  At that moment, Travis reveals to Hunter that Hunter's real mom is somewhere in Texas.  Happy to go on an adventure with his real dad in hopes of finding his real mom, Hunter willingly abandons Walt and his wife to journey to Texas with Travis in an effort to find his mom.

 Requiring some audience disbelief (particularly at the start of the film), Paris, Texas is a drama with magnificently magical qualities.  A man comes out of the desert without a single memory, but upon hearing about the son that he abandoned finds that all of the love he felt for his toddler son is still present.  Aside from also being about family, Wim Wenders' masterpiece is also about generational differences.  On one side of the film is the literal generational distance between a middle-aged father and his seven year old son, but on the other side of Paris, Texas is the difference between the modern world and the idealized past.  Hunter complains about walking home from school because everyone rides in cars, and Travis is fearful of flying in airplanes due to a generational disconnect with modern society.
 Every scene in Paris, Texas beautifully captures the world surrounding the characters.  Whether it's the busy cities of California, or the flat land of Texas; the cinematography captures the separation of generations as a subtext within the film.  The camera work also captures the road-trip aspects of the film with beautiful realism.  The audience gets to experience being in the back of Travis' truck as the camera observes Travis' eyes in the rear-view mirror.  

 Featuring wonderful performances from everyone in the film, the true standout role may be the kid Hunter portrayed by Hunter Carson.  Everything from the way that Hunter rambles about things that he enjoys to his Star Wars: Return of the Jedi bed sheets enhances Hunter's brilliant performance.  He is every seven year old boy in a single character.  Both fragile and desiring to fit in with the world around him, Hunter Carson delivers spectacular dramatic dialogue that sounds child-like while bearing the profound (a special thanks to screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson, Hunter Carson's father).  It only benefits Hunter Carson's performance that his character bares his actual name.
 Paris, Texas also contains one of the greatest dramatic scenes in film history (but I won't give away the scene).  What makes the scene special is the metaphorical importance of how the drama unfolds.  Two people talking, essentially face to face, but only one person can actually see the other if the other person can't see them.  Their desire to see one another and speak is riveting.  They never do see each other at the same time in the course of the film which adds to the magical quality of the film.
 Easily one of the best films ever made (that few have heard of), Paris, Texas is a dramatic treat.  The film has inspired many contemporary filmmakers, most notably Alejandro González Iñárritu with his 2010 drama Biutiful.
Wim Wenders' Paris Texas (1984) VS. Alejandro González Iñárritu's Biutiful (2010)
 Paris, Texas is without a doubt a must-see that can be enjoyed by almost all ages.  It's powerful filmmaking with an eye for beauty in the world around us and is a quest for redemption.  In a movie where the concept of the city Paris in Texas is an ideal, Paris, Texas is an ideal film.


My ranking: 5/5