11 June 2011

Paris Texas is a Movie that Happens While We're Busy Making Other Plans

I'm always shorter than people expect I'll be. Do I write or sound tall? Or taller, at least?
But I'm sturdy (hurdy gurdy) and deceptively strong. Like a tequila sunrise. But that's not what you're here for, is it? None of this is. You want the juice. The fix. My great con of film blogging. You want a hit of 100 proof Riku Writes movie prattle. The kind you can contemplate those long lonely nights in front of the flickering image....

He walks silent through the landscape of the film. Not a word is spoken for nearly half an hour of film time. Like a ghost. An angel. Spectral and gaunt. Kind of cool. King of spooky. His name is Travis (not Bickle) and he's played by Harry Dean Stanton in Paris, Texas (1984).

His square-dealing, straight-as-an-arrow, middle-class, suburban brother Walt (Dean Stockwell) retrieves him from the south Texas frontier – where he has collapsed – and takes him home. Home to L.A. and Walt's wife, who is French, and son – who is really the son of Travis.

It's a strange, moody, beautiful story. Wim Wenders directed and he's certainly strange and moody if not particularly beautiful.

I ran into this movie today. Smack dab into it. Like ramming my head into a low door jamb. Thud. But it didn't hurt. Felt kinda good, actually.

What do we make of Travis? He was gone for four years, and when he finally talks won't say where to or why that four-year gap exists. He's got a wife he's not seen in four years. Meanwhile their child Hunter has lived a little over half his life. With Walt and Ann.

You know what Travis does the first night in his brother's house? Not sleep. No, that's ordinary stuff. He polishes all the shoes in the house and lays 'em all out in order on the outdoor terrace. Because.

Travis and Hunter have some catching up to do but that's not going to be easy. One being not yet eight years old; the other being laconic. Probably should be laconic with a capital L. I'm just saying.

Walt, by the way, has his own company making and erecting billboards. Of course. Travis says he really likes his billboards. Walt points out that he's not the only person in the world makin' em. Cute!

Anyhoo, Travis is a tortured soul (not sole as in feet, let's not get carried away with the whole shoe business). I mean. he's been wondering or some damn thing for awhile now and has just re-emerged. He's no good-time Charley.

But ya know what he finally decides to do? Find the boy's mother. And to take the lad with him in the search. Why, that's kidnapping, you insist. Yeah, in real life, but this is a story. A parable even. Don't go all literal on it. Travis is just liable to walk off into the desert again like he kept trying to do at the beginning of the film. (Hey! I forgot to mention that the reason the movie is named Paris, Texas is cause Travis owns some property in said city, or town or whatever....Or maybe it's because Travis was conceived there, or...hell you decide for yourself. Truthfully, it might not be all that important, I don't know.)

Let's skip ahead shall we? There are some scenes I found really awkward. Such as when Travis is talking into the window-side of a window mirror (they call em two-way mirrors) but.... On the other side is his wife (Natasha Kinski). Eventually it goes from really awkward to quite beautiful and you just might be ready to sob or something. I don't know you so I can't say.

Then other stuff that seems suitable enough to the story happens and it ends. The film, I mean.

I really like the choices of how Paris, Texas begins and ends. I mean, where do you start a story and where do you say this is where we stop it? That's a tough decision. They got it right in this particular story (written by Sam Shepard). Where you start and end determines what's in the middle, if ya think about it. And it sure-fire colors how you view the whole story. Ultimately, it's better with some stories not to chop 'em up into pieces, chapters, parts. But look at them like a river. Just flows. Travis kinda flows through the story. There's a steadiness and relentlessness about him. I think.

I just think a lot about Travis. He's so meandering  and purposeful – if that makes sense, but I don't guess it does and that's okay. How easy is it to always make sense to other people when you're describing art? I mean it's simple enough if you deal in trivialities and clichés. Maybe next time. Paris, Texas doesn't lend itself to trivialities or clichés. I like that in a movie. Don't you?

Travis is endless and indestructible. And oh so vulnerable. (Got it!)

But I was making a point about this Travis fella. He's lived, by God. Which means some really grand times and some pretty deep lows. (I don't trust a guy says he's had a nice smooth life. He's either a liar or an empty suit.) But ya know he don't just live in the angst. He walks through it. In it. Among it. Makes it poetic. I like that. I also like the way Wenders told this story. It's really pretty to look at for one thing. And the soundtrack  works like a charm. I really like Stanton, of course, but I also really admire how Stockwell played the straight up and down counterpoint. You haven't got much of a film if the supporting players are just props and not like real, living people themselves.

I'm sure glad I didn't see this film until 27 years after its release. Cause today -- this day, this place, this mood -- I was ready for it. I got my plunk in the head and was seeing stars but it felt good and those stars was pretty.

You do your thing, Travis. You're alright.

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