Paris, Texas Reviews
Much like Wenders' "Wings of Desire", much attention is given to the setting to show how seemingly insignificant we are in comparison to our surroundings. Yet, rather than war torn Germany, Paris, Texas features panoramic shots of the Texas badlands. With a character so arcane and withdrawn from the world, Wenders utilizes the power of atmosphere coupled with Stanton's acting prowess to fill in the parts of the story where the words won't suffice.
It is a story about the path to finding one's identity and Wenders finds so many ways to convey this journey.The freeway scene is a brilliant metaphor for how we as humans go through life. We seem to be traveling down this open road at breakneck speed, making last minute lane changes in hopes to catch up with the life we so desire.
The film moves at a snails pace, but I get the sense that Wenders doesn't want to rush Travis' journey. I think it is a smart touch as by the films conclusion, one feels that we were allowed to drink in so much of his life that his image kind of sticks with us. There have been many times in my life where I have felt like a Travis and I think the film beautifully encapsulates the confusing and often heart wrenching journey that one must take in order to find out who they really are.
This film is just as strange, although I do not find it to quite be the masterpiece it is often heraldd as being. Don't get me wrong, it is fantastic, but I found it hard to get completely immersed in. It's a bit hard to sit through. At times though, when I was able to really tune into the same wavelength this was on, it was quite great.
This film begins like some sort of mystery, and indeed it takes the whole film to really find out what happened, but it lacks the traditional shenanigans of the mystery genre. Even when the answers come to light, I was left unsatisfied and wanting more. That's not a bad thing, either. WHile there is a story and plot, it is not really about those things.
Instead, this is more of a meditation on character, emotions, loneliness, and despair. That Stanton's character is a man of few words (quite literally) is one of the many things that make this film a curiosity worthy of seeking out. Stanton is a brilliant character actor, and this was his first time to take the lead. He's wonderful, and I wish more people would take advantage of his abilities and let him lead more often. The little kid gives one of the better and more interesting performances by a child, and Stockwell is also nice. The two women, while pretty good ,left a little to be desired. The performances aren't bad, just overshadowed.
Besides the acting, the best reaosn to watch this are the music and the cinematography. Ry Cooder's music here is probably the definitive drifter theme in all of cinema and in general. Robby Müller's cinematography is some of the best work done in the last thirty years. From the neon to the vast expanses of landscapes shots, everything looks gorgeous. The way that light and shadow are dealt with is also quite stunning.
As mentioend above, this film is a bit trying on the patience. While it could be a little shorter, I think the real issue here is the pacing. It both works for and agaisnt the film. It's good that the story unfolds graudally, because that's part of the intrigue, but I think it takes a bit too long at times, and the viewer may wonder why some stuff is focused on longer than it should be.
I'm giving this 4.5 or an A- in letter grade terms, but I'm not sure how I really feel about this one. I'm mixed on it, and am not sure how to really accurately describe or grade it. I think that's a sign that this is worth checking out.
Well, now I'll eat my hat. This movie is, as Jim Hunter describes, "a long, perambulating film," but I never thought it tried to be deep or understated. There is so much exposition in Travis' confessional that any Intro to Playwriting class would ream it a new arsehole, but for some reason, it works. Perhaps it's because the characters aren't looking at each other. Perhaps it's because Harry Dean Stanton is just so straightforward about it all: his rage, his brutality, his numbness. He's neither overstated nor understated; he's just stated. Perhaps it's because of Nastassja Kinski's complex good girl/bad girl duality. Her coy yet cautious follow-up questions show that she's not entirely naive; she has an inkling about who's on the other side, but she IS still naive enough to will herself to believe it's not so.
Hunter Carson as the precocious, young son is mighty impressive. Hunter and Jane's reunion scene is so unexpected. It's not tearful (at first). It's not resentful. It's not deep. It just is. Hunter gets up, walks over, holds out his arms for an embrace, all at an aching adagio pace.
Lastly, I think I've found a gesture that rivals the inexplicably beautiful woman-putting-on-stud-earrings tableau: woman's-hand-resting-on-clavicle. I mean, looking like Nastassja Kinski might help too.
Overall, I think the film should have started about forty minutes into the story, and it would have achieved the same effect.
Okay, now, the film is of course not nearly as painfully drawn out as something like "Wings of Desire", largely because this film has something that "Wings of Desire" didn't have: a plot, or at least until the film even forgets where its going through all of its excessive padding. Clocking in at startlingly close to two-and-a-half hours, the film has more than enough time to unravel its strong story, and boy, does it not let you forget the "more than enough time" part, because as reasonably hefty as this story is, the film goes plagued to nearly no end by scenes that drag nearly to no end, and if you have a hard time believing it's that rough, then buddy, sit back, because I'm understating. Now, don't worry too much kids, because this isn't quite a modern Terrence Malick film, where well over half of the film is comprised of total nothingness, yet much of this film finds itself dragged down to a crawl by excessive bloating through filler material, if not total nothingness, so much so that, as I said, the film altogether momentarily loses focus after a while, and rarely makes a full recovery after that. This film's momentary lapses in focus dilutes resonance and the ceaseless padding slows down the film's momentum to a crawl, but either way, the film drops your attention all too fast and all too often, while dullness sets and leaves you to think about setting into bed. Again, calm down kids, as the film's dull spots aren't relentless, yet the film is relentlessly slow, meditating much too deeply upon the atmosphere of the film to the point of actually tainting the atmosphere with dry blandness, often to where the film does descend as low as dull, and here and there to the film descends as low as all-out boring, because director Wim Wenders wants so bad to make this the hyper-artistic style piece that it just simply isn't. Now, I'm not saying that this film would be any more exciting if was the hyper-artistic style piece that Wenders wants it to be, because no matter which way you look at it, the film is too meditative, too slow, too bloated and too do-little to be anything terribly upstanding, yet chances are that the film would be better, because what it is right now is a dramatic story rich with substance, and on that level, it slips up by Wenders' attemps at making it an art piece, which not only makes the film dull, but all over the place in focus, tone and theme, as well as limited in substance and ultimately not what is should have been, could have been and perhaps would have been if it were in the hands of a more substance-driven and - yes, I'm gonna say it, you pretentious art snobs - "competent" director. As it stands, well, it's at least better than "Wings of Desire", because where Wenders headed that operation and crafted a film that was tremendously mediocre for what it was and by its own right, Wenders' mistakes go battled back by the components to this film that really do deliver, sadly not where the film itself delivers, but decidedly to where the film is enjoyable, as well as even rather impressive as, if nothing else, well... an art piece.
Many of Wim Wenders' artistic touches don't fit all too comfortably, yet there is a certain artistic something that's well welcomed no matter what kind of film you're making, and that is, of course, fine cinematography, for although this film's cinematography's level of impressiveness has dated a bit, Robby Müller's comfortable shot staging, clever lighting and stunning color bounce remains something to behold even to this day. This piece of style definately catches your eye, while what catches your investment is the very story that goes tainted by other forms of style, though not much too much, for although the film's "story"telling styles overwhelm the substance and leave it rather underwhelming in execution, the story remains the primary focus, and it's a strong enough story to where the overstylizing isn't nearly drowned out, yet still to where you can lock in with the story, and mostly with the help of the writing duo of L.M. Kit Carson and, yes, "that" Sam Shepard, who I really wouldn't have pegged as a writer of this kind of stuff (No wonder he played a surviving Butch Cassidy in "Blackwood"; he seems to know a thing or two about secret lives). Hey, I've got to say, if most of Shepard's writing is better than his work here, then maybe he should write a bit more often, for although his and Carson's screenplay isn't especially upstanding, it is reasonably strong, providing thorough insight into this worthy story, as well as believably human and layered characterization that fleshes out the essence of the key components to this character focus, thus making a strong story all the stronger. Ever so unfortunately, Wender undercuts most every right move made by the film's strong writing duo and perhaps stronger source material and subject matter, and for every compelling high point, there are quite a few underwhelming low points, yet make no mistake, this film has its fair share of compelling high points that manage to avoid going tainted by Wenders' undercuts and give us genuinely engaging occasions of resonance that provide a glimpse at the better film that this final product, as a whole, isn't. Still, with all of the film's low points, it never descends so low to the point of being worthy of dismissal, going supported by its worthy story and a writing team that's certainly stronger than the director who executes their work messily, and if all else fails, then you at least have strong performances to fall back on. Everyone holds his or her own, with someone like the stunning Nastassja Kinski stealing the show for the all too brief time she's on, yet it's leading man Harry Dean Stanton who really steps up to the plate, as his Travis Henderson character, an amnesiac who has missed four key years of a that life he's slowly but surely easing into and looking to ameliorate as well as he can, definately presents quite a few acting challenges, many of which have been toned down by the unfortunate writing down of the material, yet many more of which go accomplished by Stanton with ease, as Stanton boasts a soberingly human and heavily layered presence that defines the Henderson character, broken up by high points in emotional range that further breathes life into Henderson and makes a character more compelling than the film itself. Now, with all of my compliments, as I said, Wenders undercuts most every high point in this film with his arrogant, gratuitously over-artistic touches that sadly leaves this film to descend beneath genuinely good, yet, in all honesty, all but just barely, as the strengths in this film stand stronger than the film itself, and while the sum of these parts failt to carry the film to the level of its golden aspects, there's enough inspiration behind this film to keep you sticking with it, even with all of the low points that ruin much of a promising vision.
Once the end of this journey is reached, the film is left tainted by the excessive bloating that renders the film's focus hazy and its effectiveness diluted, thus creating a disengagement that, when combined with the film's relentless slowness, often creates dullness, if not all-out boredome, and after two-and-a-half hours of this, the final product is left falling very short of what it could have been and as underwhelming, yet not to where it can't still catch your eye with its fine cinematography, while your investment goes caught by the strong story, brought to life by strong writing by L.M. Kit Carson and Sam Shepard, as well as by a compelling lead performance by Harry Dean Stanton, thus creating high points that may not be enough to dismiss underwhelmingness - spawned from Wim Wenders' many missteps -, yet remain enough to make "Paris, Texas" a generally enjoyable and consistently watchable dramatic piece that may not live up to potential, let alone hope, but ultimately gets you by.
2.5/5 - Fair