Criterion Corner: Paris, Texas

paris texas

Hey there, everyone. Brian Matthew Kim here. As the resident Criterion Collection expert, I’d like to share with you a few highlights I’ve discovered over my four years of regular Criterion viewing. But rather than focus on the films I enjoy, I’m going to alternate between movies I really like and movies I really dislike. For today’s inaugural entry, I’d like to discuss my favorite Criterion thus far, Wim Wenders’ 1984 road movie (?) Paris, Texas.

What I like about it: Gorgeous cinematography. Ry Cooder’s slide-guitar score. Harry Dean Stanton and Nastassja Kinski’s performances. Sam Shepard’s dialogue. A slow movie that never feels boring. A pre-Quantum Leap Dean Stockwell. The contrast between setting (oftentimes stark, empty, or soulless landscapes) and the characters’ rich humanity.

Favorite scene: If you haven’t seen this movie and you don’t want me to spoil the end, then stop reading now. I mean it. This is your last chance. Okay, so: The conversation (i.e. two monologues) between Stanton and Kinski. Not only are they amazing monologues, but they also flip my feelings about these characters. For most of the movie I empathize with Stanton –- he’s portrayed as the protagonist. But the conversation at the ends shows that he’s actually the bad guy –- he’s the one to blame for their relationship falling apart. It’s jarring that this quiet, gentle man I’ve grown to like is capable of such darkness. And the way the scene is staged –- with one-way glass –- is just even more heartbreaking. There’s always going to be something between them that makes normal conversation impossible.

Fun fact: According to its Wikipedia page, Paris, Texas was both Kurt Cobain’s and Elliott Smith’s favorite movie of all time. I don’t know what that says about me.

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