Paris, Texas (1984) – Wim Wenders

Harry Dean Stanton and Dean Stockwell headline as brothers in the next recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book following my screening of Thelma & Louise.

Featuring a fantastic score by Ry Cooder the film is a look at a shattered American dream as Travis Henderson (Stanton) having been missing for four years, walks out of the desert, and back into the life of his brother, Walt (Stockwell) and sister-in-law, Jane (Natassaja Kinski) who have been looking after Travis’ son, Hunter (Hunter Carson) since his disappearance.

Attempting to put his life together, and reconnect with his son, and his brother, he is reticent to share what happened to him, and where he went, but soon, as he opens up, he expresses a desire to find his wife, Anne (Aurore Clement).

Soon, he and Hunter are on the road, back to Texas to find what happened to Anne, their family, and if they are able to pick up the pieces.

While there is always a sense of motion in the film, with the travelling, and camera work, there is a sense of stillness emanating from Stanton’s performance, that speaks of a man who has put his inner demons to rest, and is able to live his life as he needs to now.

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It’s an enjoyable character piece that relies completely on Stanton’s performance, and pairing him with Stockwell as his brother, and young Carson as his son, was a masterful stroke. The film exudes believability and breathes with a sense of reality.

Singular moments stay with you, the family reconnecting physically and emotionally, if not verbally, as they watch old home movies, and Travis winning over his son’s affection through the course of the film, until they go on their life-defining, and life-changing road trip.

Through it all Cooder’s score as a soulful twang to the onscreen events, and perfectly underlines Stanton’s Travis.

The climax of the film, featuring a brilliant dialogue between Travis and Anne reveals so much about his character that your emotions, and loyalty to the character come into play, before settling exactly where they need to, allowing you to accept the ending that this movie had to have.

Wenders paints beautiful pictures of the Texas and California landscapes, while harnessing some powerful and restrained performances from his leads, until all of it comes to its climax in a room that is built on illusions, a room that could symbolise the broken American, and family dream that the film recounts.

A magnificent watch.

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