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