Picks and Pans Review: Paris, Texas

updated 11/05/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/05/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

A man is found wandering in the Texas desert. His brother comes to claim him. The man is in shock. Four years earlier, after his wife had abandoned him, he left his son, age 3, with his brother and went off into the wilderness. Now the man, who can barely talk, must build a relationship with his son. The two leave for Houston to find the boy's mother. That's all that happens. No one dies. No one is physically abused. No one even utters a four-letter word. But Paris, Texas, directed by Wim (Hammett) Wenders and written by playwright-actor Sam Shepard with L.M. Kit Carson, may be the most disturbing film ever about the roots of family relationships. Shepard's words and Wenders' images blend in a magical poetry. Harry Dean Stanton, character actor extraordinaire in such films as Christine and Straight Time, moves up to the star class of Robert Duvall and Jack Nicholson with his mesmerizing performance as Travis. Paris, Texas, where his parents conceived him, is where he wants to belong. The scenes in which Travis uses home movies to reconnect with his boy, superbly played by 8-year-old Hunter Carson (the son of Kit Carson and actress Karen Black), have a wrenching poignancy. And Nastassja Kinski comes alive onscreen as never before as the mother. Working in a bizarre brothel, where customers pay for talk not sex, Kinski speaks to men through a mirror. With the glass separating them, Kinski and Stanton relive the agony of their lives in a shattering half-hour scene. This is daring, demanding filmmaking, with a haunting ending. Every element enriches the whole, including the strong performances of Dean Stockwell and Aurore Clément as the boy's caring relatives, Robby Müller's stunning photography and Ry Cooder's evocative music. Though Paris, Texas is long (150 minutes) and sometimes maddeningly self-indulgent, no other movie this year cuts a clearer path to the heart. (R)

From Our Partners