Paris, Texas was one of the first indie movies I got addicted to watching….. although it kinda ripped my guts out. This film is an early warning to us all of how life can easily overwhelm without us realising it. It tells the story of Travis Henderson, a disheveled and clearly traumatized individual aching to make some form of reparation and atonement for the family he tore apart.
Who can forget the opening scene where Harry Dean Stanton who plays Travis, wanders the desert like a man possessed dressed in a suit and a baseball cap with Ry Cooder’s haunting sliding guitar score? You can see this opening scene at the end of this post.
What sets Paris, Texas apart is it showcases middle America through a European lens and artistic sensibility. It’s not so much the thin plot we are drawn into rather its alluring tone and feel. Stanton brings this character to life in the most subtle and somber way. Nastassja Kinski, who plays Jane, his wife doesn’t show up until the third act, and 95% percent of her performance takes place in one room. But her portrayal of emotion… her quiet, yet powerful demeanor is extraordinary and that scene remains to me one of the most moving I have ever seen. It’s achingly beautiful.
If you were to view Paris, Texas as a critique of American culture, the picture is quite bleak – ever-present loneliness, urban alienation, emotional separation, and general rootlessness. For that reason it may not be for everyone (and that can be said about any movie), but it’s still one of the most auspicious human stories told because it’s a reunion movie and it captures like few others those redemptive moments of the soul.
Paris, Texas was winner of the Golden Palm at the Cannes film festival and is one of the most acclaimed films of the 80s.