Saturday, 17 April 2010

Paris Texas

A Road movie.

A man dressed in a pin-striped suit, tie and baseball cap walks across the desert of Southern Texas. He is out of water and his only companion is an Eagle watching him from a lofty peak. He ends up in a local clinic and whilst being examined says nothing. The Doctor finds a name an address in the mans wallet and calls it. It is the man's brother - Walt. Walt lives in LA with his French wife Anne and immediate resolves to fly to Texas and bring his brother home.

Eventually Walt arrives at the clinic only to be told his brother Travis has left on foot. We see Travis walking in a straight line across the brush and scrub.This happens repeatedly - and all without Travis uttering a word. Walt finds this odd and frustrating - particularly as they have heard nothing from Travis for four years and Travis' son, Hunter, is living with Walt and Anne. Eventually they arrive at the airport to fly back to LA but as the plane taxis toward the run way it stops and Walt and Travis get out - Travis refuses to fly. A two day road trip follows but as soon as Travis takes the wheel and Walt drops off to sleep, Travis heads for Paris, Texas. Travis believes, based on a story from his father, that he was conceived in Paris, Texas. He clutches a photo of a vacant lot he had bought some years earlier in Paris and wants to locate it. He intended to build the family home on it and raise his son. Slowly Travis begins to speak and more and mor eof the story unfolds.

 The pace of the first 90 minutes is extremely slow - painfully slow, but it speeds up. In LA Hunter is introduced to his biological father and very slowly a relationship develops. Then all of a sudden Travis invites Hunter to go with him in search of his mother. He agrees and off they head to Dallas armed only with the knowledge that Jane (Hunter's mother) makes a deposit at a particular bank on the 5th of each month. They keep the bank under surveillance and Hunter spots his mother from an old photograph. Travis and Hunter follow her to a sex joint where punters pay to talk to girls through a two way mirror while they presumably perform the fantasies of the client. Travis goes in and at the first attempt is unable to say much to her. He returns having left a full 'confession' on tape for Hunter to listen to. At the sex joint, He begins telling a story in the third person explaining how he managed to allow his marriage to break down. He can't bring himself to look at Jane as he does this and pointedly sits with his back to the mirror. Eventually, she realises that it is Travis and she confesses her part in the breakdown.Travis tells her that Hunter wants to see and the film ends (after 2.5 hours) with a warm encounter between Hunter and Jane in a downtown hotel. Satisfied that son and mother are reunited, Travis drives off. End of film.

Apart from the length and lack of pace, there is much to commend this film.The way in which it portrays the human propensity to screw up vital relationships has an honesty about it. The fact that the film didn't have a sugary ending (unlike Bagdad Cafe) is to be commended. The breakdown in relationship obviously screwed Travis' mind, but he had processed sufficient data and emotion over the four years to resolve to find his plot of land in Paris. How stable is Travis? He relates that his father had a mental illness - is he similarly afflicted? What life did Travis have before he met Jane and after the reconciliation? How could Hunter be expected to cope with 'here's your dad', 'you're leaving Walt and Anne', 'here's your mom' 'bye bye I'm gone' in such rapid succession with no support? The film leaves more questions than it gives answers - whihc is what endears it to me. What happened to Walt & Anne afterwards?

What possible metaphors might the story contain? Perhaps Travis' reluctance to fly and miss the journey back to LA is a statement about having to make the journey - traveling is more important than the destination.There is a lot of use of phones, walkie-talkies, a walkman and mirrors to protect people from delivering intimate and painful dialogue face-to-face.Does the empty lot on Paris show a picture of Travis' need to return to the dust of his creation to be recreated?

All in all, there is much love but also much guilt on show in this film. I imagine that it's a sign of this broken creation that the two have to go hand-in-hand, This film is worth the effort - but get an extra large box of popcorn - you'll need for the first hour and a half!
I'll give it 7/10.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What confussed me and upset me most (maybe thats the point) is who would leave their kid with no obvious hope, taking him from a loving surragate family. Travis became endearing throughout the movie, but his final action to leave his child with his peep-show, ex-wife just makes him criminal, what was he trying to do?

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