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Paris, Texas (Criterion) (1983)

Paris, Texas (Criterion) (1983)
Running Time: 145 min.

GreenCine Staff Pick: A tall, gaunt man in a red baseball cap stumbles through the desert. Thus the enigmatic beginning to Wim Wenders' haunting, achingly beautiful Paris, Texas. Harry Dean Stanton's Travis (surpassed for me only by his turn in Repo Man), a nearly mute (at first), anxiety-prone drifter whose impetus only gradually becomes apparent, slowly draws us into his own internal landscape. In a dream pairing of artists, Wenders collaborated with writers Sam Shepard and L.M. Kit Carson, whose spare but beautiful script, in which characters dance around the edges of things, works perfectly with Wenders' keen eye and sense of discovery. The wide open spaces of West Texas are famously captured here by the great cinematographer Robby Müller, the soft blue sky gives way to red-orange thunderclouds and sunsets, the brown desert mesas, the endless highways, but the film is just as effective in the smaller spaces, the way distances between people are demonstrated visually - from low-rent motel rooms to the suburban Los Angeles home in which Travis reunites with his son and, most unforgettably, in the peep show conversations between Travis and his ex (Natassja Kinski). Unsurprisingly, because the story here is more internal than external, more about the emotional arcs of the characters, the pace is leisurely - but not at all leaden.

The film is about loss, a man lost in grief and trying to reconnect with the young son (Carson's son Hunter, a natural) who barely remembers him. The relationships between the central six characters are painfully, but beautifully, played out by all concerned. Dean Stockwell, 180 degrees away from his Ben in Blue Velvet, nicely underplays Stanton's sweet-natured brother who comes looking for him. Aurore Clément (whose scenes were restored in the extended Apocalypse Now) is also lovely as his wife. Kinski does a more than passable Texas accent, and the film is a reminder that she wasn't just another pretty French face. She can act, too, and one wishes she'd been given more opportunities to do so. The film is also enhanced by Ry Cooder's appropriately low-key and twangy score. Paris, Texas is a near-masterpiece, a sublime miracle.

Note: Wim Wenders' commentary on the DVD is often revelatory and definitely worth a listen, including his words over the deleted scenes ("I wanted this shot for the giant road runner in the background - I'm a sucker for things like that.") -- Craig Phillips

Paris, Texas (Criterion) (Bonus Disc) (1983)
Running Time: 145 min.

Bonus Disc Features:

  • Video interview with Wenders by German journalist Roger Willemsen
  • Excerpts from a 1990 documentary on Wenders, featuring interviews with Wenders, cinematographer Robby Müller, composer Ry Cooder, actors Harry Dean Stanton, Dennis Hopper, Peter Falk, and Hanns Zischler, novelist Patricia Highsmith, and director Samuel Fuller
  • New video interviews with filmmakers Allison Anders and Claire Denis
  • Wim Wenders Hollywood April '84, a segment from the French television program Cinéma cinémas, showing Wenders and Cooder at work on the score
  • Deleted scenes and Super 8 home movies
  • Gallery of Wenders's location-scouting photos
  • Behind-the-scenes photos by Robin Holland
  • Theatrical trailer

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