First time I saw this poster, with the granny photography, the color red, the beautiful eyes and lips of Nastassja Kinski, the blonde hair and everything about her that makes her face so magnetic, was when my mother bought the Paris, Texas' DVD. I was fascinated by the image. I wanted to know who that woman was, what was she looking at, what was her story. Because Kinski is so powerful in this film that only by looking at her big eyes you know she is hiding something. Her beautiful face is a landscape all its own, a map to the story. When the film started, I was instantly captivated by it. Paris, Texas has one of the most unforgettable openings on cinema. Ry Cooder's iconic music on the background, and a lost, lonely man in the middle of Texas' desert, played by Harry Dean Stanton. His name is Travis, and until the last minutes of the film we wouldn't know what led him to this situation.
And that's the beauty of this moving and fascinating story written by none other than the great playwright and actor Sam Shepard with the help of L. M. Kit Carson, who adapted his original story. Everything relies on the third act. Paris, Texas works as a road movie because the main characters have to hit the road in order to explore themselves, their past, their present and what would determine their future. It's like the Odyssey revisited, if Ulysses and Telemachus have been separated for a while then reunited, and later, together, they would have search for Penelope. Like Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus wandering into Dublin's night. A very special travel, one that would unite a father and a son, and that will lead Travis to the point where all this started. Travis encounters his past, face to face, in one of the most beautiful sequences ever written, composed by two monologues, from Travis and from Jane, a special dialogue between both of them. And that is Paris, Texas. My favorite film, directed by Wim Wenders.
Why is it my favorite? I don't even know exactly why. It's a heart-driven thing. When it comes to films, I don't like to rationalize my feelings for them. To me they're just another piece of art, and like all art the response to them is subjective. I guess that I could say that there are some peculiar things on this film, and in Wenders' filmography, that are specially attractive to me. I'm a sucker for road movies. The cinematography by Robby Müller is exactly how I would like my film to look, if I ever had the chance to make a film. Also, one of my favorite filmmakers, Claire Denis, was Wenders' assistant director on this film. The cast is perfect. Dean Stanton, the now 87-year-old actor, is one of the most interesting performers we've ever had. He's the guy who's worked with Lynch, Wenders, Scorsese and Ridley Scott, but recently did a hilarious cameo in the The Avengers. Hunter Carson as the kid Hunter, with his obsession with space and time-travel, was one of the most adorable and smart kids on film, and it brings back to memory the presence of another lovely kid in a Wenders' film, the brilliant Yella Rottländer as Alice in Alice in den Städten. Dean Stockwell and Aurore Clément are perfect in their little roles and, last but not least, Nastassja Kinski. Her character, Jane, is my favorite female character from cinema. I can't think of anyone being most hauntingly beautiful as her in the phone booth scene, or looking most beautiful crying. It only comes to mind another favorite, Anna Karina in Vivre sa Vie. It's a story about family and love, in the end. And I can't think of a most beautiful dialogue than the monologue in the end, besides Jane's dream is a dream I've had many many times. Enjoy the ride:
All the landscapes and settings are essential as they work like another character, contributing to create a unique atmosphere of isolation, the feeling of being lost, literally and figuratively speaking. The long roads, neon lights, lonesome motels and road diners look like something Edward Hopper could have painted.
“Actually, I was going to make a far more complex film, because I’d originally intended to drive all over America. I had it in mind to go to Alaska and then the Midwest and across to California and then down to Texas. I’d planned a real zigzag route all over America. But my scriptwriter, Sam Shepard, persuaded me not to. He said: “Don’t bother with all that zigzagging. You can find the whole of America in the one state of Texas.” At the time, I didn’t know Texas all that well, but I trusted Sam. I traveled around Texas for a couple of months, and I had to agree with him. Everything I wanted to have in my film was there in Texas—America in miniature.” — Wim Wenders reflecting on the making of Paris, Texas.
“Cinematographer Robby Müller shot Nastassja Kinski’s red sweater in a way that has been embraced by the fashion world more times than one can remember. But the true reason that this film continues to resonate after twenty five years across all artistic fields is that the story’s beauty is timeless. It is not just classic but romantic beauty and that’s a killer combination. The aesthetics are informed from a place of the character’s true beauty, not just for the sake of it.” — Ben Briand on Paris, Texas for Badlands.
[ This mesmerizing shot has always reminded me of Ted Hughes' Lovesong:
In their dreams their brains took each other hostage
In the morning they wore each other’s face. ]
Jane: I used to make long speeches to you after you left.
I used to talk to you all the time, even though I was alone.
I walked around for some months talking to you.
Now I don’t know what to say. It was easier when I just imagined you.
I even imagined you talking back to me.
We’d have long conversations, the two of us. It was almost like you were there.
I could hear you, I could see you, smell you. I could hear your voice.
Sometimes your voice would wake me up. It would wake me up in the middle of the night, just like you were there in the room with me. Then... it slowly faded. I couldn’t picture you anymore. I tried to talk out loud to you like I used to, but there was nothing there.
I couldn’t hear you. Then... I just gave up. Everything stopped.
You... just disappeared... And now I’m working here...
I hear your voice all the time... Every man has your voice.
Paris, Texas premiered on 19 May 1984 in the Cannes Film Festival.
And four days later, a day like today 30 years ago, 23 May 1984,
it was proclaimed as the winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or.
Here you have a video of the director, Wim Wenders, receiving the Palme d'Or
from Faye Dunaway and the President of the Jury, Dirk Bogarde:
The film received international praise and won several accolades, besides the Palme d'Or, including Wim Wenders' BAFTA and David di Donatello for Best Direction, Robby Müller's several awards in Germany, and the London Critics Circle Film Award and the USA's National Board of Review Award for Best Film.
Here there are some great pictures from the set with the director and actors:
And here there is a great video for the film's lovers. The Super 8 scene is one of the most moving things from the film and one of my favorite parts. This is an exclusive featurette with the original scene that we can see in the film, but also with added footage of Hunter and Jane together, like in the images above, with Travis' touching monologue on the background:
“I knew these people. These two people. They were in love with each other.”