Friday, November 14, 2014

Paris, Texas (1984)

This month is the 30th anniversary of the U. S. release of the great movie, Paris, Texas. 

Yesterday, it was mild shock to stumble upon this (and a reminder that I am getting old).  I was also pleasantly surprised, when reading at wikipedia (spoiler alert), that the movie was an inspiration for U2’s The Joshua Tree and that it was perhaps the favorite movie of Kurt Cobain.  Its influence is greater than I had thought, and rightly so.

I have only the vaguest memory of what prompted me to watch this movie in the 80’s.  I think I read a review that interested me.  And I know I was very interested in Nastassja Kinski if you know what I mean, and I think you do.  I am pretty sure I did not see it in the theaters but on VHS.

I do know I was captivated and moved.  This Texan appreciated the starkness of the settings and of the screenplay.  I appreciated both the simplicity of the story, and that the movie took its time and with small details in telling it.  There is the simple genuine interaction between the characters.  And then the conclusion . . . I cannot recall any conclusion to a movie that so moves me.  I still cannot recall it without my eyes getting moist.

Now as you can probably tell, I am not much of a movie reviewer. (Heck, as my friends can tell you, I rarely watch movies anymore.  I do not have the patience and attention span for most of them.  For me, life is too short to watch most movies.) Roger Ebert has written an excellent review (spoiler alert).  So feel free to read that.

There is a second reason I am noting Paris, Texas.  The movie was an important influence on me as I wrote Pilot Point.  The image of man alone in the desert, the importance of the road, themes of the torments of repeated loss and of the risk of reaching out, attention to detail while keeping the story simple and unhurried, the technique of meeting the main character in the middle of his utter aloneness and then slowly finding out what led to it, a conclusion that is moving yet marked by uncertainty – all these aspects of my novel were influenced by the masterful use of the same in Paris, Texas. 

Pilot Point is a very different work than the movie with a different structure and plot.  And I certainly would not presume that it is a great work like this movie.  But I am among those who owe a debt to Paris, Texas.

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