Revisiting Paris, Texas

Since I came back from the US I’ve started to revisit all the movies that I’ve been buying throughout the years. For those who don’t know, I hold a special film collection that I try to keep adding titles that I love for the sake of having it and being able to watch it later. With this, I’ve realized how re-watching films is important, especially if you haven’t watched a film you love for more than five years. With that, you are able to pay attention to things you haven’t noticed before or you start appreciating things more than your first watch, like the cinematography, the editing, the production design, you name it. You watch the film without a rush to discover its secrets. You already know them all and this time you can revisit them and pay attention to every little detail, almost like a second first watch.

Since my re-watching list is hitting number 60 this year, I’ve decided to start a new thing on the website which is a short commentary on a specific film I’ve re-watch. I’d like to call this “Revisiting” and talk about my experience with first and second watches and what makes a certain film so great. Today we’re talking about Paris, Texas.

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Paris, Texas was the second Wim Wenders movie I’ve watched and nowadays I could barely remember what the film was about. The first new element in this re-watch was the cinematography by Roby Muller, who had an exhibition in Amsterdam two years ago that I visited when I did my backpacking trip through Europe. Known for several of his works as a cinematographer, such as Lars Von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark, Jim Jarmusch’s Down by Law and several others Wim Wenders movies, I was way more aware of Muller’s work on the film this time and realized how the colors blue, red and green seem to have their own narrative throughout the film.

The story follows the broken life of Travis, a man who doesn’t speak and doesn’t remember who he is, except he must reach the city of Paris in Texas. When his brother shows up to save him, Travis memory seems to start coming back to life, as he is brought back to civilization. Travis is seen at the beginning of the movie in the middle of the desert and ends in the middle of buildings in Houston. An amazing allegory for annihilation and the search of the self. With that, the film follows Travis remembering about his past and how he has to deal with his losses.

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With the help of Roby Muller, Wenders creates a beautiful and colorful road movie where the colors red, blue and green are always present. Some people say the primary colors of the film are red, white and blue, being this a representation of the American flag and the American dream. I tend to divert a little bit from this theory because of how green it’s used in the film, especially towards the end, where all characters are covered in it. The color green appears out of nowhere in certain random places in the film and comparing to the final scene, it’s almost like the Travis has been imagining the reunion of if his family since he is brought back to L.A. Also, notice how the red appears in special moments that attaches the character of Jane to it, like when she appears in the hotel cabin covered in red, or even when Travis talks about Jane to Anne in the garden at night, illuminated by a red light. Maybe the idea of the American flag color scheme is real, but I suspect there is more to it, like maybe each character has a color of their own.

It’s amazing how silence is also a great character in the film, being used to create tension and a great allegory to big empty spaces, like the desert, and the horizon – which is exactly how the character of Travis feels in the inside and is also what he is attracted to. One of the reasons he wants to go to the city of Paris in Texas is because he bought a large piece of empty land there. In some way or the other, the horizon is something Travis is constantly chasing, like he can never stay in one place still.

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No wonder the writer of this film, Sam Shepard, wrote Zabriskie Point, which speaking of him, he creates a beautiful set of lines, especially for little Hunter. His conversations with Travis are simply heartbroken, as he talks about the big bang theory, light speed travels and especially when he asks Travis if he feels his father is really dead because sometimes people leave us but we still feel them alive inside of us.

Revisiting Paris, Texas was a great exercise to remind myself how beautiful and touching the movie is, way more than when I first watched it – which proves my theory of how important is to re-watch films. Hopefully you’ll be reading more about this re-visitations soon.