Directed by Wim Wenders. With Harry Dean Stanton, Nastassja Kinski, Dean Stockwell
West Germany/France/UK/US 1984, DCP, color, 145 min
Wenders’ longstanding obsession with the American landscape reaches its apex in Paris, Texas, an Antonioni-esque neo-Western in which the hero’s meandering passage from Texas to California in search of an estranged family stands in for the filmmaker’s quest for transcendence in the quotidian spaces of an idealized land. In its procession of parched expanses, oversized motel signs, neon-lit gas stations, and gloomy skylines, the film conjures a southwest at once extraordinarily mythic and provocatively alien, a distinct planet inaccessible to artists with more seasoned homegrown associations with the region. Acting as the shell-shocked guide to this planet is Harry Dean Stanton, inimitably forlorn under his bushy mustache and dusty red cap, and at the peak of his unique capacity to summon unspeakable depths of emotion with a simple gaze at the horizon. After nearly a decade in documentaries and genre films, Paris, Texas marked Wenders’ return to the loose, episodic narrative structure of the “Road Trilogy”—albeit with an injection of the psychologically complex dramaturgy of collaborating playwright Sam Shepard, whose influence is most palpably felt in the elongated tête-à-tête that comprises the film’s emotionally devastating final act. DCP courtesy Janus Films.