written by Sam Shepard
It never amounts to as much as director, writer, the photography and the title promise. That is one damn’ fine title.
I liked almost every frame of this film, and watching and hearing Wim Wenders interviewed on Criterion’s disc 2, I loved him, too; and I wish I could be as impressed with his film as he is. But when the narrative’s puzzle is finally solved, we uncover an unoriginal melodrama with nothing profound to say.
Wenders feels his feel has much to say about America. Whatever and however much it says, whatever he and Sam Shepard hoped it would say, it is splendidly said by actors who make us care about their characters. And it is spoken by Roddy Müller’s impressive but never showy photography and Ry Cooder’s music for which fitting is an insufficiently precise term.
Harry Dean Stanton as Travis is fine in the lead, and Dean Stockwell is excellent as his brother. Aurore Clément as Anne has a smaller role, but she plays it well. Hunter Carson is outstanding as the son and stepson. As Jane, Nastassja Kinski is superb in a performance that survives even the concluding unconscionably long monologues of which everyone connected with this film seems inordinately proud. Throughout this sequence Kinski and Stanton prove themselves wonderful weepers. The concept, the setting and much of the dialog are a long way from realism. But crying must always be real, and they both are splendid at it.
Nick Roddick in his essay “On the Road Again” describes the very last scene as “quintessential Wenders…bleak and borderline sentimental” — an apt annotation for much of the film which does, however, strive against that sentimentality. Roddick also writes, about the setting: “Mexico and the desert have one thing in common in American culture: they are places people go when they want to get lost.” (Roddick’s essay is included in Criterion’s two-disc issue of Paris, Texas.)
MOVIES ARE EVERYWHERE
— including good books:
In V.S. Naipaul’s An Area of Darkness, the author — in a book that is part autobiography, part travel book (with cultural/sociological/historical observations) — journeys for the first time to India, the land of his family’s origin and heritage. Among the things he sees are “the film posters that seemed to derive from a cooler and more luscious world, cooler and more luscious than the film posters of England and America, promising a greater gaiety, an ampler breast and hip, a more fruitful womb.” (Adolph Deutsch, Random House, 1964.)
NEXT Friday POST MAY 13
Let’s GO OUT and see a movie,
See you there,