Monday 25th September 2017

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Paris, Texas is a 1984 road movie directed by Wim Wenders and starring Harry Dean Stanton, Dean Stockwell, Nastassja Kinski, and Hunter Carson. The screenplay was written by L.M. Kit Carson and playwright Sam Shepard, while the distinctive musical score was composed by Ry Cooder. The film was a co-production between companies in France and West Germany, and was shot in the United States by Robby Müller.

The plot focuses on an amnesiac named Travis (Stanton) who, after mysteriously wandering out of the desert, attempts to reunite with his brother (Stockwell) and seven-year-old son (Carson). After reconnecting with his son, Travis and the boy end up embarking on a voyage through the American Southwest to track down Travis’ long-missing wife (Kinski).

At the 1984 Cannes Film Festival, the film won the Palme d’Or from the official jury, as well as the FIPRESCI Prize and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury. It went on to win other honors and critical acclaim.

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Travis Henderson walks alone through the South Texas desert, then stumbles into a building and loses consciousness. A German doctor examines him and determines he is mute, but discovers he possesses a telephone number and calls it. The call is answered by Walt Henderson, Travis’ brother from Los Angeles. Walt has not seen or had contact with Travis for four years, and agrees to travel to Terlingua, Texas, to retrieve him. His French wife, Anne, is concerned about the matter, as they have adopted Travis’ son Hunter, with Hunter’s biological mother Jane also missing. Walt reaches Terlingua, and finds Travis wandering from the clinic where he was found. The two brothers begin driving back to Los Angeles. When Walt becomes increasingly frustrated with Travis’ muteness, Travis finally utters the name “Paris”, asking to go there. Walt mistakenly assumes he means Paris, France. Farther down the road, Travis shows Walt a photograph of empty property in Paris, Texas, which he had purchased, believing he was conceived in that town.

The Hendersons reach Los Angeles, and Travis is reunited with Anne and Hunter. Hunter, aged seven, has very little memory of his father, and is wary of Travis until the family watches home movies from days when they were all together. Hunter realizes that Travis still loves Jane. As Hunter and Travis become reacquainted, Anne reveals to Travis that Jane has had contact with her, and makes monthly deposits into a bank account for Hunter. Anne had traced the deposits to a bank in Houston. Travis imagines he can possibly see Jane if he is at the Houston bank on the day of the next deposit, only a few days away. He acquires a new vehicle and borrows money from Walt. When he tells Hunter he is leaving, Hunter wishes to go with him, though he does not have Walt or Anne’s permission.

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Travis and Hunter drive to Houston, while Hunter recounts the Big Bang and the origins of Earth. When they arrive at the Houston bank, Hunter identifies his mother in a car, making a drive-in deposit. He calls for Travis via walkie-talkie, and they follow her car to the peep-show club where she works. While Hunter waits outside, Travis goes in, finding the business has rooms with one-way mirrors, where clients only converse with the strippers through a telephone. He eventually sees Jane, though she cannot see him, and leaves.

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The next day, Travis leaves Hunter at the Méridien Hotel in downtown Houston, with a message that he feels obliged to reunite mother and son, as he is guilty of separating them in the first place. Travis returns to the peep show. Seeing Jane again, and with her seemingly unaware of who he is, he tells her a story, ostensibly about other people. He describes a man and younger girl who meet, marry and have a child. The man descends into alcoholism, while the young wife suffers from baby blues and dreams of leaving the family. The man had also dreamed of withdrawing to an unknown place “without language or streets”. A fire in a trailer home after an incident of domestic abuse finally parted the family. Jane realizes she is speaking to Travis, and he tells her Hunter is in Houston and needs his mother. Jane has longed to be reunited with her boy, and enters the hotel room where Hunter is waiting, while Travis watches from the parking lot. He climbs into his vehicle and drives away.

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