Paris, Texas (1984)

23 05 2010

I’m accused movies of “cheating” before and I usually mean that in the sense that they are too close to my ideal vision of cinema. This is one of those movies. It’s a weird phenomenon and I can never quite put my finger on it, but films like these are perfect in my eyes yet still can’t provide the same emotional response as some of my more “flawed” favorite films. I’ll particularly throw out Two-Lane Blacktop and The Wayward Cloud since this film is of the same ilk and, in all likelihood, it’s probably aware of the former. It seems a little too simplistic, not to mention illogical, just to downplay a film like just because it doesn’t have any transgression or something, but there’s definitely something missing here.

If there’s one flaw in the film that I can immediately pinpoint, it’s the weird overly-bright, almost cartoony color scheme that is easy to find towards the start, but tones down before eventually arriving in Wenders’s usual visual territory. The film of his it is most like is probably The American Friend but the opening landscapes look a bit more commercial than anything in that film. It’s a really small gripe because looking at the film is almost completely a wonderful experience. I guess I just expect more from the usually aesthetically pleasing Wenders? Again, this is just small stuff.

The story concerns itself with Travis Henderson, a man lost in the desert who has obviously experienced something extremely traumatic in the past. He slowly becomes part of functioning society with the help of his brother, Walt and his wife, Anne who have been taking care of Travis’s son, Hunter ever since Travis vanished many years ago. There’s some nice bonding scenes that feel real even though the content is obviously bordering on being something out of a mushy Hallmark card.

In the last twenty minutes or so, the film (somewhat abruptly) shifts into territory that is more familiar for works of this style. Travis tries to hunt down his wife, the women who (we are to presume) played a integral role in his emotional collapse. Basically any scene with Nastassja Kinski is enormously sad and moving, but probably just a bit too dialogue-driven for their own good. It really goes against the grain, especially if one takes into account that a majority of the film’s opening is without any dialogue at all. It all works, but again, it might play some part in my inability to truly embrace this film like the two comparisons I mentioned in the first paragraph. Everything works well here: it just works too well, I suppose. Still, a great film that I enjoyed a lot more than this review probably implies. Pardon that, I’m still a bit rusty.