Thursday, March 20, 2014

BUREAU MAGAZINE FILM: PARIS TEXAS at THIRTY YEARS An Appreciation of a Timeless Classic

PARIS TEXAS at 30 Years

Directed by Wim Wenders
Based on The Motel Chronicles Written by Sam Shepard 

Starring: Natassja Kinski, Harry Dean Stanton, 
Dean Stockwell, Hunter Carson as The Boy, 
Aurore Clement, John Lurie & Bernhard Vicki

Paris Texas: what a film! One of those translation projects that 
are the perfect blend of producing, writing and directing. So 
seldom does a European director truly understand the work 
of an American writer that he or she can take the original source 
material and come up with something as epic, important and 
truly American as Wim Wenders did with the film, Paris Texas. 

Based on the Motel Chronicles by Sam Shepard: writer, actor,
and all around influential poet, playwright, essayist. Author of 
The Rolling Thunder Logbook, an 'on tour' diary with Bob Dylan.
Friend to Patti Smith, author of Fool for Love, True West and 
countless other original and important plays. Most of you will 
remember him as Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff, the space 
film that opened up an entire genre. Sam Shepard is sort of 
the last of the real cowboys, he is our connection to the West.
Sam Shepard understands the myths, the values, the old West 
& the new West. Wim Wenders understands Sam Shepard which 
creates a fabulous combination that works from beginning to end. 

In the 1980's, if you were studying writing, acting or directing, 
there were three major influences & original styles in which you 
had to overcome: Sam Shepard, David Mamet & Charles Bukowski. 
If one had to add a fourth, it would have been, for me: Luis Valdez.
On the one hand, you could not ignore their presence, on the other 
hand, you had to learn what they had to offer and forge ahead to 
create a style & a body of work that was all your own. Not everyone 
in my group was able to overcome and or accept those lessons, very few 
would ever forge ahead and fewer less are even still trying to this day.  

This film, much like many of Shepard's plays, tracks the lives of 
two brothers. Not exactly Cane & Abel, though, there is a touch of 
that, without the harsh judgements. The film stars Harry Dean Stanton 
in one of his rare, serious & thoroughly leading roles as Travis, a down 
and way out figure of a man who crumbled, then quickly disappeared 
after the tragic break up of his marriage. Leaving behind a young son, 
who is now being raised by his brother and the brother's wife. This is a 
family mystery without any obvious genre's or influences to compare it.  
A wholly original film that was an influence on many of the film makers 
working in the nineteen eighties. Paris Texas put Wim Wenders on the map. 
Natassja Kinski plays the long lost wife to Travis & the missing mother to 
their son, Hunter. A completely fresh & flawless child performance, by the 
actor of the same name Hunter Carson, not seen on the screen since the likes 
of Gem and Scout in the classic masterpiece, " To Kill a Mockingbird ". 

The film takes us from Mexico into Los Angeles & eventually into Texas, 
in a search for the meaning of life, relationships, love and resolution. 
A pitch perfect soundtrack by Ry Cooder [ The Havana Social Club] .
Fine Art Cinematography by master film maker Robby Mueller. Adapted 
by L.M. Kit Carson, who has taken the source material and completely 
transformed it, by also lifting all the textural hooks, symbols & basics 
from the Shepard canon of works to create this masterpiece of a film.
From the first frame, to the last, we are given a piece of Americana 
that one finds in Hank Williams' songs, old scrap books, sun faded 
photographs, classic cars, antique stores and long lost love letters.
Travis slowly comes back to life, remembering his troubled past,
meeting his son after many years and finding himself in an identity 
crisis. As a father, a brother and a human living in the modern world. 

Dean Stockwell [ Blue Velvet ] plays the brother, Walt, who runs a 
billboard company. Upon their awkward & unexpected reunion, Travis 
excitedly exclaims, " So your the guy who makes those … ", unaware 
of worldly issues. Travis is a tragically poetic human, trapped in the past, 
an innocent . A throwback to another time and another place, obsessed 
with his parents lives, myths and the legends & little known facts that 
some times make up our lives. Where our parents first met, what daddy 
often said while introducing mother at parties. The family past looms large 
in Sam Shepard's plays and here, in Paris Texas, that past is everything.  
"Daddy would say that momma was from Paris and he'd wait to get 
their reaction before saying, from Paris, ... Texas." The film picks up a 
certain charm and bravado once Travis and his son Hunter take to the 
road. A beautiful and funny, heartfelt search for the woman neither has 
seen in several years. The search for the love of ones life, the search for 
mommy, the search for a broken past, the search for some kind of a 

Hunter and Travis bond on the road, when it comes time to call home, 
Travis tells Hunter, "You have to do it." And indeed he does, in a phone 
booth, at sunset, the call completely startles the would be foster parents and 
thoroughly delights the audience to see father & son taking to the road 
in the great American journey in search for the future, the past and in 
this case, the present.  Armed with toy walkie-talkies, a vintage car & 
nothing more than a few memories enlivened by old super 8 movies, 
the duo get to know one another, father and son changing roles along 
the way. Hunter leads the search, while Travis drifts back into absentia. 
Eventually, the bond is created and father and son indeed find mom. 

This is pure cinematic poetry. A one time effort that could never be 
repeated. A French and German co-production filmed in America with 
an international cast. One of the best films made in the Nineteen Eighties 
and possibly one of the best American films about America ever made. 

       TRIUMPH  OF  THE  WALL  .  ON THE ROAD  .            
       KRISTEN   STEWART    
       BIG WEDNESDAY at 35