A man wanders out of the desert after a four year absence. His brother finds him, and together they return to L.A. to reunite the man with his young son. Soon after, he and the boy set out to locate the mother of the child, who left shortly after the man disappeared.Written by
Ed Sutton <[email protected]>
At face value, the screen story, about a dysfunctional family, is weak. The plot is not really credible. The lead character (Travis) is an older man who in the first ten minutes of the film wonders alone in the desert like a horse with no name, seemingly suffering from severe trauma. But Travis' later behavior and the behavior of other characters in the film are not believable, given this opening gambit.
However, if we discard our need to interpret behavior rationally, then the film works, either as a dream or, more generically, as a parable of modern day America, from the viewpoint of a European film director. The characters and their journey through the film's story are symbolic of American culture as a whole, with its ever-present loneliness, urban alienation, emotional separation, and general rootlessness.
The film's visuals and music combine to prop up the thin story, and give the film its enduring cultural theme. Cinematographer Robby Muller's images are stunning. His location shots both in the desert and in the urban jungle, using polarizing filters, are works of true photographic art. The images, with their florescent greens, reds, blues, and yellows in dim light are just terrific. More than any dialogue could, these visuals effectively convey the loneliness, alienation, and lost love that are so characteristically American. And Ry Cooder's simple but haunting Tex-Mex guitar sounds amplify this grim mood.
The film's main flaw is its length. With a runtime of 150 minutes, some parts of the film could have been edited out, without loss of the film's message.
"Paris, Texas" is a memorable art house film about the modern American experience. Like other art house films, the story is not necessarily to be taken literally. Instead, the story provides narrative support for the visuals, the music, and other film elements, the combination of which imparts some broader or deeper social message than could be conveyed by story alone.
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