“He thought if she never got jealous of him that she didn’t really care about him. Jealousy was a sign of her love for him.”
What happened to Wim Wenders? A quick look at his IMDB page and I realise that nothing happened to him. He’s still going strong, releasing movies on the regular, and has been for decades. But why isn’t Wenders as high profile as he once was? In the 80s and early 90s, he was one of the rare dudes who could make an arthouse, foreign language movie, and still get noticed in mainstream, English speaking cinema. Sure he wasn’t rivalling Speilberg for box office receipts or anything, but even in my small Australian town, you could find his movies in the local video shops. Movies like Paris, Texas.
After being missing for four years, Travis (Harry Dean Stanton) wanders from the Texas desert into a bar in the middle of nowhere, then passes out. In hospital, his doctor finds some ID, as well as a phone number for Travis’ brother, Walt (Dean Stockwell). When Walt receives the news, he jumps on a plane and flies from Los Angeles to collect his brother. Once in Texas, it turns out that Travis has wandered off again. Walt eventually finds him walking the backroads and, after an altercation on a plane, they begin a two day road trip back to LA. Refusing to say a word to anyone to this point, Travis finally begins to open up when Walt mentions Travis’ young son, Hunter (Hunter Carson).
Once back at Walt’s place, we meet his wife (Aurore Clement as Anne) and Hunter. It turns out, when Travis took off years ago, so did his young wife, Jane (Nastassja Kinksi). Walt and Anne have been caring for Hunter as their own son ever since. To the point that Hunter even calls them mum and dad. At first not sure what to make of his biological father, Hunter and Travis soon bond, and decide they need to track down Jane and reunite their family.
I saw Paris, Texas once, years ago. I was probably 15 or 16 and thanks to U2, my older sister was going through an arthouse, Wim Wenders obsession. I remember it being long, slow and boring. But when I saw it was available to watch on Netflix, I was quick to realise that opinion probably had more to do with my dumb, teenage mind, than it did with the quality of the movie. And I was pretty spot on. What seemed long slow and boring to me back then, was a lot more measured, deliberate and contemplative on this re-watch.
Harry Dean Stanton is one of the few actors who can spend half an hour of a movie never speaking and only rarely raising a facial expression above complete blankness, and still be immensely watchable. Even once he begins to speak, and bond with Hunter, he still makes Travis’ compelling through his tortured restraint, not through any show emotional outbursts.
But I also have to give credit to Sam Shepard’s screenplay and Wim Wenders direction. Because the last half or so of this movie is basically just a conversation between Travis and Jane. Actually, it’s not even really a conversation, it’s more like two monologues, as Travis lays his heart bare, then Jane gets to deliver her rebuttal. And it never gets long, slow or boring for even a second.