Paris, Texas – IMDb 244/250
It’s been a while, but I’ve finally found the motivation to watch and review the next film on my IMDb top 250 list, Paris, Texas (1984). A moving and thought provoking drama, Paris, Texas stars Harry Dean Stanton as Travis Henderson, a man who mysteriously wanders back to society from the desert after disappearing for four years.
After his brother Walt, (Dean Stockwell), picks him up from a doctor’s clinic, we learn more about Travis’ life before his disappearance, including his troubled marriage and relationship with his wife Jane Henderson (Nastassja Kinski). We soon learn how he abandoned his son from this relationship, Hunter, before disappearing without a trace.
As the film progresses we see Travis slowly reconnect with his son, and the two go on a journey to find Jane, who went missing soon after Travis’ own disappearance, leaving Hunter with Travis’ brother and wife, Anne Henderson.
Paris, Texas is a hard film to describe, particularly without giving away too many details about the films plot. I found it a very unique experience, having seen nothing like it before, and it came from the brilliant mind of director Wim Wenders, whose style exudes throughout the film.
The story I found absolutely captivating after the initial slow build up. Once Travis is talking and back living amongst his family, we slowly begin to understand what happened and this intrigue into his history and life stays throughout the film, culminating in a truly lovely scene at the end in a peep show club (always the setting for the most heartfelt scenes), where Travis reveals more about his relationship with Jane.
The mood and atmosphere created by Paris, Texas is difficult to describe as well. On the one hand it is sort of uplifting, cheery, and at times funny, with an almost road movie like quality to the film when Travis and Hunter go out to search for his mother, and as they travel the two bond in a subtle but really heartfelt way.
But at other times the film is rather melancholy and questions Travis’ actions and character, such as essentially abducting Hunter without really worrying about Anne and Walt and how they’ll feel not knowing where there adopted son is. The ending follows this trend of being a little bit happy and a little bit sad, which only makes the film that little bit more interesting.
Whether or not you can say Travis is a very likeable character is up for debate, no matter how good a job Harry Dean Stanton does of making you care for Travis.
At first he is mute, almost annoyingly so to his brother who simply cares about him and wants to find out what’s happened to him. He simply abandoned his son with no explanation, takes off with him without telling his adopted parents, and at the end you find out more about his dark past. But this only makes his character more interesting, and easier to invest in.
The performances of the actors in this are what truly makes this film special. Harry Dean Stanton is superb as Travis, and Nastassja Kinski gives a wonderfully understated performance as Jane. But the true star of Paris, Texas is Hunter Carson, who plays Hunter Henderson.
I have a tendency to find all child actors in film and television aggravating to say the least, (e.g. the kid that plays Carl in The Walking Dead or Macaulay Caulkin in Home Alone – let’s face it we all want the robbers to win when we grow up), but Hunter, who would have been only 11 when filming this is excellent, he is charming and likeable with a childlike innocence to what is going on around him, shown particularly in a moving scene when he is telling his father about the Big Bang Theory. (Not the TV show.) It really amazed me when I saw that Hunter Carson’s career never took off in a way his performance in this would merit.
Another aspect of this film that is highly praised is the soundtrack. With its western sounds over the beautiful Texan landscapes and deserts, there is a real American authenticity to the film, something that is perhaps lost on us as a British audience but in a way makes viewing this a more enriching experience as it is so different to our own landscapes and backdrops.
Seeing as I had never heard of or knew nothing about this film, watching Paris, Texas proved to be an amazing experience for me. Going in with no expectations at all, I came away loving this film, knowing that I would be recommending it to everyone I know, (so about 4 people), and adding it happily to my DVD collection rather than selling some of the others I will watch on this list – and yes, people still buy DVDs.
So for anyone reading this review, if you don’t need your films to be full of explosions, action and Hollywood one-liners, then watch Paris, Texas.
My Rating: 9/10