Film Review

Paris, Texas

todayMay 25, 2024 10

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By – Nick Adrian

For fans of Americana, Wim Wenders, and Sam Shepard

It’s been forty years since Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. It won the Palme d’Or and went on to cement its place in cinema’s history – the Sam Shepard-penned script, the European eye viewing American landscapes, and the affecting performances ensuring its reputation. It was something I was drawn to early as I was first getting into film, having been a Harry Dean Stanton fan and drawn in by its arthouse legacy. What I didn’t quite expect was the meditative film that it was; hypnotic in its pace yet devastating in its emotional tone. Upon first viewing, I couldn’t put my finger on why it spoke to me so…I just knew that it did.

After a few subsequent viewings though, it wasn’t Shepard’s dialogue or Robby Mueller’s cinematography or Nastassja Kinksi’s allure that stayed with me (or at least, not just that). It was the title itself. Not a single second of the film takes place in the small town of Paris, Texas. We learn that it’s the town where lead character Travis’ (Stanton) parents first make love. He figures by that logic, it was the town where he was conceived and in a way, the town in which he was born. This is the town he’s trying to find at the beginning of the film, wandering the Texan landscape aimlessly for four years until his brother Walt (Dean Stockwell) locates him. Travis has been missing and presumed dead, so Walt is adamant about returning him home to Los Angeles to be with his eight year old son, Hunter (Hunter Carson).

From here, Travis attempts to integrate back into society, rebuild his lost relationship with his son, and take him to be with his also long-lost mother, Jane (Kinski). The couple had had a falling out, Jane had left with Hunter, left him with Walt, and disappeared. In reaction to this, Travis is lost, confused, and broken. He may not be able to put his family back together fully but he can do his best. He’s searching for finality, substance – and ultimately, redemption. Wender is smart enough to not give us the final resolution; Travis might always be looking for it. We all might.

 

Paris, Texas is available to stream on Max and The Criterion Channel.

Written by: Nick Adrian

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