January 26th, 2013

me: art

Paris, Texas (1984)

This film could be adequately summarised as Craggy-Faced Chap Looks Soulful Against a Backdrop of Sweeping American Skies, Accompanied By Slide Guitar.

There is a coherent and moving story involving the breaking and mending of familial ties and some of the best child acting I’ve ever seen, but even if that hadn’t been present, this is a joy to watch because of the cinematography and the phenomenal body language of the actors. Harry Dean Stanton (the aforementioned Craggy-Faced Chap) has the ability to convey the way words bubble up and choke in the throat and refuse to come out. His painful emergence from his reticent, amnesiac shell is facilitated by his brother and his brother’s wife, who adopted his son during his long absence. They pick him up and put him back together. He repays them as well as might be expected, while remaining an entirely sympathetic character. Not, I hasten to add, with violence, but with the deep emotional hurt humans bestow on one another through inescapable self-absorption.

All this takes place below the hot dry skies of Texas and California. Long looks in rearview mirrors and a distinct lack of seatbelt usage enable the poignant scenes that take place in some truly magnificent battered beasts of American cars, throwing up clouds of dust as they rumble through the desert. It will made me long for a particularly American flavour of road trip: staying in shabby motels, eating diner food in the company of silent truckers, drinking cold beers in dive bars and squinting into the blazing sun.