Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Soul of a Man

Created before Wim Wenders made his other excellent and famous 80s film that I have previously viewed, Wings of Desire (1987) Paris, Texas actually is the superior film of the two. Perfectly capturing the American Southwest in terms of the stunning and hauntingly lonely mesa centered landscape, complete with shots of dying towns and flashes of neon, Wenders takes this unique area and makes it the backdrop of a film that is really about one man's mediation upon his life-his past, his present, and his possible future. Making Harry Dean Stanton, who by 1984 was relatively famous for appearing in both Alien and also Repo Man, who was more of a character actor than anything else, the star of the film was a rather interesting choice by Wenders. Since Paris, Texas is a magnificent film and is one of the best of the 1980s, that decision is easily validated.

Found by his brother Walt, portrayed by another famous character actor, Dean Stockwell (in a rather understated and wonderful performance) in the desert, Stanton's hapless father figure named Travis is informed that he has been away for five long years. During this time his brother has taken care of the son that Stanton and his wife, played by the rather tender and achingly beautiful Nastassja Kinski, both choose to left behind for reasons that during most of the film remain a taunt mystery. Although film exists of all of them together during a particularly happy trip, the use of the old stock footage only serves to jar Travis' memory, giving him a glimpse into what his life used to be without really offering any true clues or answers that could actually aid him in any understanding. Having his son express rather stark resentment is only natural, yet Travis' persistence in winning back a child that used to be his and that so loved him is both touching while also a tad bittersweet at the same time.

Having the American Southwest provide the backdrop for Travis' own new journey resulting in him giving birth to an entire new experience was a rather excellent choice on the part of Wenders. Stanton's weathered, beaten down features match the countryside in a rather obvious yet fitting way-its as if this odd man, who goes from barely speaking to delivering an entire speech to someone about the years he used to know, is an embodiment of an entire place and time. Bringing together skilled performances and displaying a top notch ability to mix mis-en-scene and montage that bridges together the film's complex narrative and script with the characters, Wenders creates a true masterwork that manages to feel and be truly American even though it was directed by a German director. Perhaps it is fitting that a foreigner would be able to properly articulate and display the feelings of an American family unite that, although having been torn apart, were still desperate to seek togetherness and closure. 100

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