Paris, Texas (1984)


For this film, I found the Road House Family Diner in the center of Paris, Texas that seemed all too fitting not to include. The reviews lead me to believe that it is not worth visiting, and probably not even worth mentioning, but here we are. As follows:

“Mystery Meat.”
“First time we ever ate here. I had a simple cheeseburger. How can you mess that up? The meat tasted like it had fillers in it. Dry, not juicy. Not tasty at all! Come on. I could have had a better burger at a fast food place. The fries were ok but somewhat limp. My husband had the special and he said it was ok. Not going back.”

“The Food sucks”
“We ordered the chicken fried chicken and it was not edible it was so over cooked that we couldn’t chew it or cut it. We told the waitress and she just walked away. We ordered sides but were brought different sides until she finally got it right. We finally just paid the bill and went somewhere else to eat.”

“Not a safe environment”
“Didn’t stay: not a face mask anywhere, on servers or customers. Strange note on front door explaining that since we’re in a non-Communist country, the manager has decided that it’s OK not to wear face masks. This is not a political issue, People! We are all fighting a deadly disease. Protect yourself and those around you: wear a mask!!”


Noirvember Film Series #8:

“Paris, Texas” (1984), directed by Wim Wenders, is a shatteringly beautiful film that is shrouded in ambiguity, silence and loss. It is not a typical noir, nor does it fit concisely within the bounds of any genre. It is a road movie, a mystery and a noir. It is contemplative, vague and the bulk of the story is bent on viewers attempting to unravel the narrative of the lead character, played by Harry Dean Stanton, who we meet wandering through the desert alone. The screenplay was written by L. M. Kit Carson and playwright and beloved actor, Sam Shepard.

In a dissociative fugue state, Travis (Stanton), makes his way through West Texas, dehydrated and confused. He has inexplicably left his home, environment and his family, and possesses no memories of his past, but is seeking reunification with his loved ones. Eventually, he makes contact with his brother, Walt Henderson (Dean Stockwell), who agrees to travel to Terlingua, Texas, to retrieve him. We learn that his brother and his loving wife, Annie (Aurore Clément), have taken to raising Travis’ young son for the past four years after he disappeared.

The film is emotionally driven, but the Southwestern landscapes are so expertly captured and the most evocative scenes are filmed with such intentional composition, it is impossible to talk about “Paris, Texas” without talking its cinematography (by Robby Müller). The whole piece is absolutely stunning. Wenders tells the story through cityscapes juxtaposed with the desert, calling to mind easy references to road movies and Westerns that had come prior, including John Ford’s “The Searchers” (1954), and updates it to the U.S. “Route 66” fantasy. Many viewers have found stark symbolism between Travis’ state of mind and his environment, moving from desolate spaces into civilization, regaining consciousness and re-connecting with himself.

What is he looking for? What stands out about the writing here is that it is never melodramatic or overwrought. It does not paw at heartstrings or embellish to evoke the right emotions. The human truths and the simple sadness of the story is enough, and the filmmakers were confident enough in it to let it speak for itself. Contemplating the effects of jealousy, addiction, separation and sacrifice, this is one of the most powerful stories ever put to screen in the most unadorned way.

This film has had an enduring legacy amongst critiques and film lovers alike. Both musicians Kurt Cobain and Elliot Smith had once stated “Paris, Texas” as their favorite film of all time. Wes Anderson references a scene in this film in his quirky hit, “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001). It received the Palme d’Or prize at Cannes Film Festival in 1984, and also managed to bring home the FIPRESCI Prize, and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury from the festival that year.

A sad, poetic American noir that should not be missed.

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