Paris, Texas (1984)

(On TV, July 2017) While, in a perfect world, I’d like to see every movie free of preconceptions and expectations, it doesn’t work like that. There are so many movies and so little time that some guidance is necessary, and that can set expectations. Try to pick your movie according to a top-movies list, for instance, and the challenge becomes whether you agree with the placement of that movie on the list. Paris, Texas is on many such lists, and it would take a wilful ignorance of film history to avoid measuring the on-screen result with the accumulated acclaim. I was surprised to find out that my interest in the movie peaked midway through. The first section seems overly stylized, as a long-lost homeless man is found by his brother and brought from aimless rural wanderings to the big city. Strange accents, visual fake outs, an alien vision of America and a plodding pacing don’t exactly inspire confidence that the rest of the film is going to be much better. (Although there is a five-minute segment that seems to prefigure Rain Man’s road trip rationale three years later.) The middle section is perhaps the best, as our recovering amnesiac reintegrates society and in particular reconnects with his son. But then, just as our hopes for the film peak, it’s time for a third act that just keeps dragging on and on and on long after the point at which it should accelerate and wrap up. The final half-hour is exasperating, as it laboriously seems to begin another movie and becomes less and less grounded in reality. While Paris, Texas does have its moments of emotional power thanks to director Win Wenders, it also seems undisciplined and lax. Far too long for its own good, it becomes less interesting as it goes on and wastes a far more engaging middle section. But then again every generation has its classics—perhaps Paris, Texas’s star has started to wane.

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