A place for dreams. A place for heartbreak. A place to pick up the pieces.
“What’s out there? … There’s nothing out there.”
So begins Wim Wenders’ iconic cult road movie. Perhaps it was Wenders’ foreign eye, himself a forebear of the so-called New German Cinema of the 1970s, that could truly pierce and puncture the symbolic Americana which Paris, Texas shows off.
Harry Dean Stanton plays Travis, a wanderer; further description would be pointless, as the definition and purpose of his character is a mystery which the film sets out to solve. At the opening, he walks out of the desert with just a baseball cap and an empty water bottle. Stanton is excellent - blank as the dusty, sun-bleached roads and yet desperate, always empathetic. He is soon picked up by his brother, himself living a typical suburban family life, and the normality of Walter’s household brings Travis out of his shell. It’s the life he wishes for, and possibly had: in a tragic past which looms enigmatically over his attempts at catharsis.
Loneliness permeates every scene in the film, from the stunted interactions of Sam Shepard’s script to Ry Cooder’s plangent, twanging slide guitar on the soundtrack. And Natassja Kinski provides a super-charged final act in a peep show that Travis visits, in a conversation of silent emotion and understanding. But this is Stanton’s film, playing an empty traveller like a purely American ascetic - he has never been better.
Screenings of this film:
|2022/2023 Autumn Term – (35mm)|