PARIS, TEXAS (Wim Wenders, 1984, USA) Travis sleepwalks from the desert, mysteriously released from his desperate isolation into a prison of regrets and denial: a man who must face the shock of awakening. Director Wim Wenders’ travelogue exposes the runaway American dream in a moribund journey across the scarred landscape of Texas, from the arid wastelands carved by the violent exhalations of Mother Nature to the neon panoramas of desolation row. Ry Cooder’s slide-guitar creates an emotional undertow, punctuating the empty spaces with a tense and lonesome tonality.
Harry Dean Stanton imbues Travis with a silent and graceful humility…yet there seems to be a dangerously explosive quality, a nitrous compound sweating from his pores. His lost years are stamped forever upon his weathered visage; a roadmap eclipsed by the dark side of the moon whose destination is a vacant lot.
The fist act of the film is wonderfully minimalist, with long takes and craggy close-ups of a mute stranger, as Wenders allows the narrative time to breath to its own mystic rhythm. But as the story progresses, it becomes deluged with dialogue and thus a bit less interesting, as exposition is conveyed through monologue and self-reflexive erudition; a verbal regurgitation that seems more heartburnt than heartfelt. Stanton’s voice is gravel and silk, the hard edges softened by compassion, but he carries a droning dreamlike quality whose sincerity is overwhelmed by prosaic longevity: the more the characters talk the less interesting they become. Nastassja Kinski is wonderful as the lovely and forlorn wife, her sexuality a ghost that haunts a room of mirrors, and though she losses her Texan accent a few times during her weeping soliloquy, her beauty belies the weary burden that drowns her soul.
Travis must face his son and his wife abandoned four years ago, a boy who barely remembers his parents but is loved by his adopted family. This dissolution and unification of the nuclear family is a metaphor concerning the transitory nature of Patriarchal modernity, as Travis’s goal is to see mother and son reborn…but vanishes once again into the electric ether. The ending needs no words as a young boy tentatively embraces his mother, both of them high above the ubiquitous valleys of concrete and steel, a subliminal disassociation from the toiling world below. The finale is sadly beautiful because this reunion cannot last, Jane doesn’t make enough money to support a child and Travis disappears once again: but there is family anxiously awaiting word from their prodigal son. Final Grade: (B+)