Travis (Harry Dean Stanton) a lone figure walks out of the desert into a bar and collapses. All memories of his previous life have seemingly gone so it’s up to his brother Walt (Dean Stockwell) to help Travis piece together the flashbacks of his fractured life and discover why this loner left his wife Jane (Natasha Kinski) and child.
Paris, Texas marks the career best for many of the cast and crew. Director Wim Wenders may have flown high with Wings of Desire but Paris, Texas shows a director at the height of his powers. Never before or since has his grasp of the frailty of the human spirit and fragility of life been so emotively portrayed.
He is helped immensely by his two leads; Harry Dead Stanton was wonderful in Alex Cox’s Repoman and David Lynch’s Wild at Heart and who can forget him as Molly Ringwold’s father in Pretty in Pink but in Paris, Texas he plays a man at the edge of a precipice. No one can be unmoved as Travis slowly and painfully unravels the mystery of his forgotten life. Natasha Kinski by 1984 had appeared in Roman Polanski’s Tess to press hysteria and bared all in Hammer Film’s To The Devil a Daughter and Paul Schrader’s Cat People. Here she displays a warmth and sensual vulnerability as Jane, the object of Travis’ torment.
The other stars of the film are Ry Cooder’s slide guitar and the eye of cinematographer Robby Muller. The soundtrack Cooder creates is wonderful and perfectly compliments the mood and tone of the visuals whilst creating an independent character of its own. Many will know his work from The Buena Vista Social Club but he has also supplied soundtracks to such diverse films as Walter Hills Southern Comfort and Mike Nichols’ Primary Colours. Muller’s exceptional camerawork gives the arid desert landscapes an otherworldly quality perfectly suiting the films hypnotic power.
Not to be missed on any count; this deeply moving and haunting account of a shattered life will leave no one unaffected. Madman Films have sweetend the deal even further with a nice collection of deleted scenes and footage of Wenders and Kinski at Cannes. An informative running commentary by Wenders rounds off an essential purchase.
DVD available from Madman Films