Monday, December 12, 2005

Day 73: Paris, Texas

The confidence this thoughtful movie exudes as it unfolds before you is alluring, irresistible.  Its imagery is rich and provocative, like a great meal at a restaurant you just popped into without knowing anything about it, and its script unfolds delicately, placing meaningful details about character into the story in a careful, deliberate manner.  I wish I had two more viewings of the film and a year's time to digest it before attempting to write about it.  It's powerful in a sneaky, understated way, similar to how Polanski's films work, and it's a joy to watch for every second it's on screen.  The runtime of the film is about 2 and a half hours but, as with most great movies that are character-based, I was aching for the film to continue, even while I was happy to see that it ended perfectly.  I don't like to let things go.

The movie opens in Texas with a thirsty, sunburned Harry Dean Stanton roaming the open desert without aim or purpose.  He finds a town, collapses in a small bar, and is revived by a local doctor who, having found a number in Stanton's wallet, contacts Stanton's brother.  The brother, played by Dean Stockwell, comes to Texas from L.A. in order to take Stanton home and reunite him with his son.  We learn that Stanton has been missing for four years, as has his wife Jane, and Stockwell and his French wife have been raising the boy as their own for that time.  The reintroduction of Stanton to the kid is confusing and troublesome for both of them at first, neither sure of how to treat the other, but eventually they come to find ways to relate.  Soon, they're both on the road to find the wife and mother of their family.  When he eventually finds Jane, it provides an opportunity for redemption for both of them.

The screenplay by Sam Shepard is meticulously crafted, withholding details about Stanton's character in a tantalizing way while revealing enough about him and those surrounding him to hold interest.  A moment when Stanton's son fully remembers his dad as a part of his early life from the screening of Super-8 home movies is particularly inspired.  The climactic scene between Stanton and his ex-wife is a perfect moment in cinema, impeccably restrained and beautifully capture by all concerned.  The perfection in the scene is all the more searing for the raw emotions at work.

The acting is uniformly superb.  The character Stockwell plays could easily be filler, but the actor adds many subtle gestures that inform an entire unrevealed backstory of the character and his relationship to his brother and his family.  The kid is fantastic, one of the more believable child performances I've seen.  Stanton, in what regrettably little I've seen him in, has never been better or had a role more suited to his skills.  And words cannot describe the work that Nastassja Kinski does as Jane; it's a small role but she too fills her character with such informed choices that I felt as if I knew her my whole life.

I watched this within the space of two hours of watching A Real Young Girl and, while I enjoyed that film quite a bit, this was on a wholly separate plane of quality.  It's a refreshing dip into the pool of smart, honest cinema, captured with intent and wonder by director Wim Wenders.  This is another great one to revisit every once in a while, and gauge how it's changed you.

Week 10 Index

Day 65: The Wicker Man
Day 66: Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
Day 67: King Kong (1976)
Day 68: Dark Habits
Day 69: Sleuth
Day 70: Inside Deep Throat
Day 71: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Week 9 Index

Day 58: Monsters Crash the Pajama Party
Day 59: King Kong
Day 60: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Day 61: The Leopard
Day 62: King of New York
Day 63: Lenny
Day 64: The Stendhal Syndrome

Week 8 Index

Day 51: Capote
Day 52: True Stories
Day 53: Fanny and Alexander
Day 54: Cold Comfort Farm
Day 55: The Celebration
Day 56: The Time of the Wolf
Day 57: Shopgirl