Director Wim Wender’s 1984 film Paris, Texas is the type of movie that draws you in and unravels with great depth. Is it a B Movie? perhaps not, but it is a bit of a forgotten gem and a favorite of mine. A film to definitely explore if you haven’t yet seen it.
In this Sam Shepard story, Harry Dean Stanton plays Travis Henderson, a man who turns up roaming the desert after having been mysteriously missing for four years. His brother Walt (Dean Stockwell) travels to pick him up and bring him home after receiving word that he’s alive.
Walt is very concerned about Travis and desperately and patiently tries to reach out to him as the two begin the long trip back home. It’s a very interesting dynamic between the two brothers. Travis gives his brother “the slip” a few times. You get the sense he may have amnesia or is disoriented. And so begins a bizarre and touching Road Movie to say the least.
Travis remains silent most of the trip – looking like a road-weary, broken down man even as Walt becomes increasingly frustrated that he can’t get an answer about where he has been and what happened. Harry Dean Stanton delivers a captivating performance saying so much about his character without ever speaking a word about it. In fact, it’s 25 minutes in that Travis finally speaks his first word: “Paris” – Then proceeds to ask his brother if he’s ever been to Paris.
This first part of the film does little to unravel the mystery of where Travis has been, maybe he doesn’t know – and as the audience, maybe we don’t need to either.
The film as a whole is stunning. Sweeping landscapes fill the first half of the movie and Ry Cooder’s gritty, slide guitar -infused soundtrack sets the scene. In fact, I can’t say enough about Ry’s music. It’s essentially a whole other level of story-telling on top of the film. While a very successful musician, many may know his work if they saw the film Crossroads (1986) – If you wondered if Ralph Macchio was really playing – he wasn’t, it was Ry Cooder.
Without revealling the whole story, Travis gets reunited with his son (Hunter Carson [Invaders from Mars]) and the two set out on a quest to find the boy’s estranged mother Jane (Nastassja Kinski).
If you need quick cuts, adrenaline-pumping action and a ton of fast dialogue, you’ll probably not appreciate this quiet epic. In fact, I’m not sure if a film like this would get made in Hollywood these days, but it’s a beautiful experience. Maybe one for a lazy Sunday, or when you want to watch a compelling tale of a family on a quest to reclaim what they once had and lost.