Wow, Harry Dean Stanton finally caught his big break in 1984, because after years of playing supporter in big and well-known films, he finally got lead roles into two well-recieved films, like "Repo Man", and later, this film. Of course, it figures that the year Stanton gets his leading roles in acclaimed films is the year no one goes to see the film he's in, except the critics of course. Well, at least this film made its budget, because even in USD, it barely cost a thing, and really, if the budget covered Nastassja Kinski's blonde wig, then they should have saved some money by keeping her brunette, because I'm telling y'all, a lot of beautiful girls are better when brunette, and if nothing else proves that, then it's this film's diluting the attractiveness of Nastassja Kinski, of all people, and she's doing a really good and really pretty Texas accent, so you know that wig drove her down a few notches. Okay, maybe Nastassja Kinski didn't fall that far, as she's still pretty incredibly beautiful, because it's still Nastassja Kinski, only she's not entirely brunette Nastassja Kinski incredibly beautiful (My tongue is getting twisted just from typing Nastassja over and over again, though it might just be because I keep thinking of Nast... that should-be brunette girl), which isn't to say that the film's disappointments end there. No, I like this film just fine, and certainly more than I like the film Wim Wenders did a few years after this, "Wings of Desire". Huh, now that I think about it, I can't tell if Wim Wenders loves slow avant-garde films more or films that deal with crossing cultures, because even when he does a film that's almost entirely in English, it still has to pertain to a place in Texas called Paris, have several foreigners in starring roles and be primarily produced by the US, UK, France and Germany. Well, either way, we can definately tell for certain that, to one degree or another, he loves slow films, avant-garde or not, for although this film is enjoyable, largely because it's not all that avant-garde, or at least not nearly as avant-garde as something like "Wings of Desire" (Few things are as overwhelmingly avant-garde), it's still not the biggest attention-sustainer, even with Nastassja Kinski (Her beautiful self actually doesn't show up until final act or so, so maybe that's why most of the film didn't hold my attention so much).
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