As Cool As A Fruitstand

…and maybe as strange. A movie blog.

Paris, Texas

Posted by Hedwig on August 3, 2009

The boyfriend and I are currently at my parents’ place for a few days. He has a thesis to finish, and this was the only way we could have a sort-of holiday together. On Saturday evening, after some delicious home-made sushi, I sent him upstairs to finally get some work done, while I sat down in front of my parents’ large HD flat screen, and put in the DVD of Paris, Texas I had rented.

A word about HD screens: I’m not convinced. I know, I know, all the cinephiles are going ga-ga over BluRay and even bigger, sharper screens… I should be, too. But I like my old best of an analog TV, and I don’t mind if things are a little bit fuzzy, soft. The problem with the new and improved images it’s that they’re TOO REAL, somehow. So read that instead of the characters, I see the actors. Instead of the world of the movie, I imagine sets. As I tweeted not too long ago, I don’t want my movies to be “life-like”. I want them to be movie-like.

Still: I have to admit that Paris, Texas looked absolutely gorgeous, and for the first time, I wasn’t bothered. Maybe HD is growing on me. Maybe Wenders’ images benefit from the extra surreality (or is that a pleonasm?). Maybe it’s just because this is one of those movies you can get lost in, forgetting everything around you.

The amazing thing is that he makes so much out of so little. The plot is fairly simple, the characters are sketchily outlined, the relationships elemental. Two brothers, two wives, a son.

What makes the movie more than that are individual scenes, which probably sound corny and awkward in description, but which -against all odds- work perfectly. Take, for instance, the scenes in which Travis bonds with the son he hasn’t seen in 4 years, Hunter. First, the son doesn’t want to walk home with Travis, fleeing with a friend. But he mellows, and the next time Travis waits for him after school, they start walking home – together, but on opposite sides of the street. Hunter imitates Travis’ movements, and they smile. Then, finally, Travis joins Hunter on his side of the street.

It sounds overly symbolic, doesn’t it? Leaden, even. But it’s a moment of beauty.

Another improbable scene comes at the end, when we see Natassja Kinski, Travis’ wife Jane, for the second time. It’s a scene laden with exposition, with two characters in a tightly enclosed space, barely moving, just talking. It’s the scene in which we finally find out what, up until now, had only been hinted at, something that maybe we could have done without knowing. But the way the scene is played, the way it staged and the way the dialogue is written, not to mention the bravura performances by Harry Dean Stanton and Kinski, make sure the scene is fascinating. Unlike many other scenes of exposition, it sounds like a conversation these two people might actually have.

Furthermore, the message they want to convey is not verbalized explicitly. When Travis tells his version of what happened, it’s partly to show he understands what he did wrong, but before that it’s simply about getting her to recognize him – and making sure that she is, indeed, who he thinks she is. Later, when she finishes the story he started, it’s not to inform him of what happens, but more indirectly, it’s to tell him how she feels now.

It’s an epic scene, and it could have gone off the rails at a number of moments… but miraculously, it doesn’t.

The film is full of such small miracles. I didn’t really like the score – too twangy for me- or the fetishization of americana, but aside from that? I loved it. It’s the kind of movie that makes you realize, once more, just how much power movies have. And that’s rare enough that it deserves to be treasured.


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