Saturday, February 13, 2010

#501: Paris, Texas

(Wim Wenders, 1984)

My friend Thomas let me borrow Paris, Texas on DVD four years ago, but I never got around to watching it (Thomas, if you're reading this, I have your DVD). Despite a mixed opinion of Sam Shepard and Wim Wenders (though a great deal of respect for their talents) I always knew I would love it, but I just kept putting it off.

I've heard people say that Paris, Texas is the best movie about America ever made, some even say it's the best movie period. Now that I've watched the film, I can see where all the praise comes from. This is a masterpiece in both small and ambitious ways, depicting a simple interpersonal story as the complementary setting for a love letter to the American landscape, urban and desolate. It's no surprise that more than one critic references The Searchers in essays about the film; I thought of the John Ford movie more than once while watching this film, mostly because to see the American desert and not think of Ford's vistas would seem impossible.

But the movie is also so tied to that Western classic because of its anti-hero, its insistence on the possibility of redemption, and the ability of the American open range to start every life anew. Paris, Texas is about America, but just as America can represent the best and worst of humanity, this film is about the hope for something better, the fight against loneliness borne of individuality, and the unlikely journey towards a better life.

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