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J.A.A. Purves

Paris, Texas

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Link to the duplicate thread.

Link to the post on this film in the A&F Top 100 (which links to an entirely different thread -- on Wings of Desire).

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Mike D'angelo just reviewed it a couple of weeks ago:

Quite the rollercoaster ride, this one. First of all, a theatrical print eluded me forever, and it's such an essentially modest film that years of accumulated hype and expectation do it no real favors. Then it kicked off in what I think of as Ballast mode, with the protagonist's soulsickness exaggerated to the point where he seems neurologically damaged. (It's not the movie's fault, obviously, but watching one brother struggle in vain to communicate with another, on a road trip necessitated by the damaged brother's freakout over the prospect of flying, had me constantly thinking of Rain Man, especially during the scene in which Travis insists on finding the exact same rental car.) Once Travis magically snaps out of it and starts behaving like an actual human being, Wenders finds a gently lyrical groove; the middle section, depicting the slow reparation of Travis and Hunter's severed bond, comes thrillingly close to perfection, with the progress of their relationship echoed visually by their surroundings as they travel from L.A. to the director's beloved forgotten America (with one small moment that must make Sicinski laugh aloud: "This is Houston?!?"). And then, just when I was ready to surrender my heart completely, it suddenly turns into a fucking Sam Shepard play. I kind of hate Sam Shepard, to be honest (as a writer, including for the stage) -- his spill-your-guts approach to dramaturgy, while catnip to actors, tends to be the exact opposite of what moves me, and the extended finale here, which I assume the movie's ardent fans treasure, seemed to me that most egregious of sins, the regurgitated backstory. (I will give him and Wenders some credit for making it cinematically compelling via the one-way mirror, though even that gets negated by the implausibility of her failing to recognize his voice for as long as she does.) Part of my dissatisfaction, I confess, may stem from the mistaken assumption to which I leaped as Travis and Hunter were tailing Jane's car, only to find two similar-looking cars heading in different directions; to my mind, the final act becomes 10x more potent if Nastassja Kinski actually isn't Jane, yet Travis speaks to her as if she is. (The home-movie footage kills that idea in advance, but that only occurred to me some minutes later.) That's really the only context in which hearing about Travis' lost years is remotely justifiable; if he's actually narrating his past trangressions to the woman who endured them, it's just mannered bathos. Which is to say, a Sam Shepard monologue.

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Hmm, I love Ozu and his unhurried family tales, with the accompanying pillow shots of land- and cityscapes...why did I find this so tedious and exasperating by comparison? (I suppose I could wonder, conversely why Stef apparently really dug this and loathes Ozu?)

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Exasperating is an unexpected description. Can you expand on that?

Hmmm, I'm not exactly sure I understand it myself, but I'll attempt an explanation:

- Taken concretely as a story, the behaviors of each character were mystifying and increasingly implausible: why is Travis catatonic and wandering away every chance he gets? how did Jane end up a sex worker? why in the world would Hunter's surrogate parents (who seem appropriately caring) allow recently catatonic Travis to take Hunter anywhere Travis chooses, including a road trip on which he falls asleep while they're separately surveilling a massive urban bank, leaves him for extended periods in the car in a seedy part of Houston, and abandons him in a hotel? If the story and the characters' behavior are meant to be a metaphor or allegory, I'm not getting what Wenders and Shepherd are metaphoring, and the opaqueness and glacial pacing eventually came together to prevent me from caring.

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A few possibilities:

- first-time viewing of Paris, Texas after loving a first-time viewing of Wings of Desire two weeks ago

I'm in the minority, I think, but I like Paris more than Wings.

I don't know about majority or minority, but after really appreciating the beauty and pacing for the first 45 minutes or so of Paris, I found myself sighing impatiently and exasperated by the final 30. If you're so inclined to start a thread, I'd love to see you or others express what's meaningful to you about this film. Consider me curious to know what I'm very likely missing.

Paris, Texas is one of my very favorite films. I love it a great deal more than Wings of Desire, though I find the two almost entirely incomparable: Wings seems to sit in a fantasy world full of lofty romance, Paris in a more concrete world full of grit and silent pain. Wings seeks a sense of humanity and wishes to be broken, but is made whole in the end; Paris seeks a sense of redemption and wishes to be made whole, but ends up broken (Travis continues on his road, it doesn't seem he finds himself 'good' enough to take part in the family reunion he sees through the window). Wings is neatly tied up, Paris is elliptical.

Beyond (but also due to) the above contrasts between the two films, I viscerally and personally relate to the world of Paris, Texas more than the world of Wings of Desire. Paris, Texas, to paraphrase Donald Richie (while speaking about his love for Au hasard Balthazar) is a place where I like myself. That inexplicable code of aesthetic guides me to realizing my very favorite works of art and, consequently, realizing myself.

Mike D'angelo just reviewed it a couple of weeks ago:

Quite the rollercoaster ride, this one. First of all, a theatrical print eluded me forever, and it's such an essentially modest film that years of accumulated hype and expectation do it no real favors. Then it kicked off in what I think of as Ballast mode, with the protagonist's soulsickness exaggerated to the point where he seems neurologically damaged. (It's not the movie's fault, obviously, but watching one brother struggle in vain to communicate with another, on a road trip necessitated by the damaged brother's freakout over the prospect of flying, had me constantly thinking of Rain Man, especially during the scene in which Travis insists on finding the exact same rental car.) Once Travis magically snaps out of it and starts behaving like an actual human being, Wenders finds a gently lyrical groove; the middle section, depicting the slow reparation of Travis and Hunter's severed bond, comes thrillingly close to perfection, with the progress of their relationship echoed visually by their surroundings as they travel from L.A. to the director's beloved forgotten America (with one small moment that must make Sicinski laugh aloud: "This is Houston?!?"). And then, just when I was ready to surrender my heart completely, it suddenly turns into a fucking Sam Shepard play. I kind of hate Sam Shepard, to be honest (as a writer, including for the stage) -- his spill-your-guts approach to dramaturgy, while catnip to actors, tends to be the exact opposite of what moves me, and the extended finale here, which I assume the movie's ardent fans treasure, seemed to me that most egregious of sins, the regurgitated backstory. (I will give him and Wenders some credit for making it cinematically compelling via the one-way mirror, though even that gets negated by the implausibility of her failing to recognize his voice for as long as she does.) Part of my dissatisfaction, I confess, may stem from the mistaken assumption to which I leaped as Travis and Hunter were tailing Jane's car, only to find two similar-looking cars heading in different directions; to my mind, the final act becomes 10x more potent if Nastassja Kinski actually isn't Jane, yet Travis speaks to her as if she is. (The home-movie footage kills that idea in advance, but that only occurred to me some minutes later.) That's really the only context in which hearing about Travis' lost years is remotely justifiable; if he's actually narrating his past trangressions to the woman who endured them, it's just mannered bathos. Which is to say, a Sam Shepard monologue.

I'll start with my conclusion: I... disagree. :lol:

Soul-sickness? As I said, I prefer stories of damaged people. Mental damage? Yes, it's obvious Travis suffers from some sort of trauma. Rain Man? Here I agree with the reviewer: it isn't the movie's fault. Associations can kill something wonderful. "Magically" snaps out of it? The implication (I don't intend to set up a straw man, but) seems to be Travis' is an instantaneous recovery. I didn't find it so: he never recovers, because he continues on his road, probably deeming himself unworthy of his family. His starting to "[behave] like an actual human being" is just a confusing statement. What is an "actual" human being, and why did he need to 'snap out of it' to fit the requirements? I thought his recovery to the point of conversationally opening himself to others was timid, unsure and gradual, and he never did seem to rid his interactions with his loved ones of ALL awkwardness.

SPOILERS ABOUND AFTER THIS POINT. STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THIS FILM.

Now, the "regurgitated backstory." Yes, I agree that typically that is a played-out storytelling sin, but I don't think this scene falls into that category so neatly. First, she seems to always semi-recognize his voice (unless I read too much in her facial expressions), but in a guarded way. After all, this is a woman whose profession requires a strong BS sensor and a no-nonsense, arm's length relationship with her clients, whether intimate subjects are discussed or not - making for a very particularly odd social position.

Her face seems to betray her recognition of Travis' voice (indeed, she later admits to hearing his voice in all her customers, another reason she probably restrains herself from jumping to conclusions) and I think she realized it was him fairly gradually through the scene.

Then I think the camera angles gave us a clue (I agree with the reviewer that it IS very cinematically compelling) when Travis tells the story of these two people he "knows." She relates, guardedly, while he initially sets up the dynamic of the two people's relationship. Then he mentions the word "trailer," she repeats "Trailer?" Then the camera POV is from inside her area, looking into the darkness of his. This is the first time the shot is from that angle, and so I think this is the first escalation of her realizations it is Travis. She still can't be completely certain, but I felt the fear well up inside her, looking with her into the dark. This is probably the first time she wanted to see who was on the other side. Yes, during his earlier visit she tried to "look" at his face, but I don't believe because she was interested in doing so, I believe it was more likely a pleasantry extended to a seemingly bashful client. Then tears, then music, then "Travis?" But I always thought the subtlety of a flash of her POV at the word "trailer," was the first hardening of certainties.

Unlike many regurgitated backstories, Travis only recounts the couples' story from the man's side of things, only able to speculate on the woman's. It seems he adopts an omniscience when he begins to say how the woman dreamt of running naked in the dark away from the man, but he goes on to explain the man's reaction when she tells him about these dreams.

People with relationship issues very often do not communicate exactly what is going on inside of themselves clearly to their partners. I'd wager they don't even examine themselves closely enough to know what is going on in there. Travis has had the benefit of solitude, to really think about himself and just what his problems were/are. A regurgitated backstory often has the audience thinking "For whose benefit is this recap? The characters aren't supposed to know there is an audience... just who are they doing this for?" I think this recap is entirely for Jane, I highly doubt the man in Travis' story was an open book.

Side question: did anybody else catch a visual rhyme between this scene and the one where Hunter is in the back of the truck separated from Travis (who has his back to Hunter) by the back window, while they communicate through radios? :P

ps- I don't know Sam Shepard or his "fucking plays." If this is one more in a long line of predictable formulae, I understand the author's exasperation. I, however, reap the reward of ignorance.

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I liked Paris from the get go. Overall it was just strange enough. It was harder just to play the movie at all after reading from those saying in various ways that it's overrated, saying something like this, Pretentious Pacing in Paris Pushes Peoples' Plausibility Policy. But it didn't bother me.

 

I side with this film over Ozu's but I don't loath his Tokyo Story.  Tokyo takes a long time to engange and then the mood is half-film half-documentary, but it's a quality one of those. The pacing might be similar to Paris. Tokyo Story's story is more like Make Way For Tomorrow.

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L.M. Kit Carson has died.

 

 

He more or less birthed the mockumentary in 1968 with the film David Holzman’s Diary (which he wrote and starred in), co-founded the USA Film Festival in 1970, landed on the National Film Registry, co-wrote Wim Wenders’ beloved Paris, Texas (co-starring Kit’s son Hunter) and helped young comers named Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson turn a short film into the debut feature known as Bottle Rocket. And he was once married to actress Karen Black, Hunter’s mother. Those are but the best-known highlights.

 

We revisit them this morning with a heavy heart: Kit Carson died at 11:34 last night at the age of 73 after a long illness. As Austin Chronicle founder Louis Black puts it in an email this morning, “One of the greats has left us.”

 

This is what Hunter wrote on his Facebook page:

“RIP dad. Your light was and always will brighten the pathways of our future. It will never be extinguished. You did everything the way you wanted and never let anyone else do less than they were capable of doing. You mentored, taught, learned, fought, excelled as both athlete and student. I loved and loved and will love every moment we spent together. Thanks for everything. See you in the movies.”

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I watched this film in August, and just rewatched it in an attempt to be able to put some words together about it. I decided to compare it to Bresson's Au hasard Balthasar. I found some striking thematic similarities between the two films, not least of which because both have an oblique focus on abused young women.

It took me a long time to write this, partly because of the devastating emotional impact from both of these films.

Anyways, my thoughts are here at my blog. (spoilers, as always)

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