Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Review of Paris, Texas

I saw a movie the other night that blew me away. I forgot that I had already seen it until about 2/3 of the way through it. Although you might be asking yourself “How can it be that good if you forgot all about it until over half the movie was past?” don’t be fooled. This was a potent film, and apparently it won some prestigious prize at the Cannes film festival. It devastated and crushed me to a pulp with its tragic beauty.

The movie I speak of is Paris, Texas, directed by Wim Wenders, a German filmmaker who I love, but I think I tend to underestimate him sometimes. It starts off with a man walking through the desert around Big Bend National Park in Texas. He finishes the water he carries, and much later we see him stumble into a man’s shack, root around in his icebox, and eat some ice cubes. Then he passes out. When he wakes up, a doctor is tending to him, but cannot get any information whatsoever out of him. Rooting around in the stranger’s clothes, he finds a phone number and calls it. It turns out to be his brother.

The brother travels from Los Angeles to Texas to pick him up, but he has disappeared. We learn that he and his wife have been missing for four years and that his brother and his wife have been raising their son as their own. For nearly the whole trip home, the seemingly amnesiac man, Travis, doesn’t speak, much to his brother’s frustration. I won’t go into much more detail, but at his brother’s Travis finds out where his wife is living and he kidnaps his own son to go find her. Near the end, you finally hear their story as told by Travis, who maintains a stoic silence through much of the movie. Their story is heart-rending… Sad and beautiful at the same time, and full of moral complexity.

I highly recommend this movie to anyone: the cinematography is beautiful, the music is inspired and suits the content brilliantly, and the screenplay was written by the playwright Sam Shepard. It is really a tri-national collaboration between Germany, France, and the United States. I suppose it’s possible that I wasn’t ready for this movie the first time I saw it.

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