From the opening shot, a flyover of the Mojave desert coming to rest on protagonist Travis Henderson, Paris, Texas is a compelling and brilliant film about a man coming to terms with and learning to overcome the mistakes of his past.
When I decided upon this project, I considered myself reasonably well versed in film – I’d already seen 136 of the 250 top rated films – so I’m quite surprised a film of this stature managed to completely pass me by.
My approach to cinema is to go into a film knowing as little about it as I can manage. Impossible in some cases but often, such as now, it’s a blessing. Had I known about it’s 100% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I would have already had an opinion of what to expect.
There’s a certain truth to this movie that comes both from intricate film making and astonishingly great performances from the main cast. Harry Dean Stanton goes from a mute in the beginning, not uttering a word until almost 25 minutes into the film, to delivering one of the most heart wrenching monologues at the climax.
Cinematographer Robert Muller (see Ghost Dog for a more contemporary example of his work) deserves praise for making almost every shot photographically perfect. From sumptuous shots of the Texas landscape and dynamic ways of capturing traffic in the driving scenes to the way he constructs shots of the actors, with a special mention to the juxtaposition of Travis and Jane during that conversation.
Paris, Texas is a film that tells the story of a man coming out of four years in the wilderness (literally, in this case) and finding himself again. Whilst slow moving and quiet in the beginning, relying on beautiful imagery to set the scene, the pacing and dialogue pick up throughout delivering a finale as starkly contrasting to the beginning as the change in Travis’s character.
Fun Fact: Featuring a young Dean Stockwell who went on to find greater fame as Al in Quantum Leap. In scenes featuring old home movies, he can be seen with a cigar, a signature trademark of his Al character.
IMDB rating: 8
My rating: 9