By Chrystal Hooi
“Paris, Texas” is a story of loss upon loss, where Travis is found after years of wandering when he collapses at a gas station. His brother, Walt, fetches him, but when he is unaware, Travis starts walking away from him, along the railroad tracks. Walt tries to ask him but Travis would not speak, when he finally starts talking, it seems as if he suffered amnesia, trying to put himself together that he lost.
Directed by Wim Wenders in 1984, the title ‘Paris, Texas’ sounds like an oxymoron, with two contrasting states placed together. However, it is actually an actual town in Texas, as seen in the photo Travis has, a piece of barren land he bought which holds memories of his parents before he was born.
The dolly shot of him walking down the railway tracks gives the feeling like the path is never-ending, just like his quest to find himself, his lost bond with his son, Hunter, and his wife, Jane.
Another interesting shot is the still of Travis, Walt, Anne, Walt’s wife, and Hunter’s feet under the table after Travis is reunited. Various emotions can be see, especially nervousness, from the fidgeting and feet tapping of Travis and Hunter.
After dinner one day, on the same day Hunter refused to be fetched by Travis after school, he goes missing and was found in Walt’s car pretending to drive in the garage. When Walt asks Hunter what was he doing, Hunter avoids his gaze and stares away. His confusion and refusal to accept Travis being his real father can be felt as Walt asks him about the avoiding Travis after school.
Later that night, the four decide to watch a home video from the past before Travis’ disappearance, and when Jane appears in the frame, Travis’ pain can be seen as he closes his eyes to look away.
The next day, Travis attempts to fetch Hunter again and seeks advice when dressing up in hope of Hunter looking at him in a better light. Hunter agrees to walk home with Travis instead of running off by walking together with him over on the opposite walkway. They have fun together mimicking each other until they reach home.
Travis and Anne have a talk about Jane and her whereabouts, with the only clue that she deposits money into Hunter’s bank account on the 5th of every month in a bank in Houston. Travis decides to find her, and Hunter tags along in the quest.
Travis and Hunter manage to track Jane in Houston, and they follow her into her workplace. Travis finds out about her job in a sex club is devastated, although Jane does not know since they are in a room with a one way mirror and Jane can’t see Travis. Travis’ tears can be seen under the dim lighting, giving an even more remorseful feel to the scene.
He makes a second visit the next day, and reveals himself to Jane through telling her their story. Before that he leaves Hunter in a hotel room, together with a recording of him telling him that Jane would be better suited to be with Hunter than himself. When Jane realises Travis’ presence, she cries and approaches him towards the mirror. The reflection of Travis’ face onto Jane’s silhouette looks like they share the same expression of wanting to see each other.
Travis informs Jane that Hunter is waiting for her in the hotel room, and leaves after she agreed to see him. A still shot of Travis standing alone at the carpark gives a mysterious and sad vibe, not knowing why he did not want to reunite with his family. The green filter light in the scene below, aside from jealously, can also be interpreted as life after death, portraying the relief he feels for reuniting Hunter and his mother. However the shadows and coloured lights makes Travis looks like he was going to slowly sink into the sickly shadows in sadness as he watches the reunion. The beautiful colours are a combination of Robby Mueller’s use of practical cool-white fluorescents in many locations, mercury vapor streetlights, and tungsten units gelled green. The saturated colours are by design, with many scenes in different colours like red, orange and blue gels for effect, and in this case, green.
There are practical and logical objections raised about this story, whether Travis made the right decision to take Hunter away from Anne and Walt, whether Jane could support Hunter, whether Jane could stop working as a prostitute. But aside all that, the quiet suspense and raw emotions displayed in the film makes you hold your breath in anticipation.
List of References:
Craig. 2012. The Man From Porlock: Best of Both Worlds (Paris, Texas). [online] Available at: http://themanfromporlock.blogspot.sg/2012/10/best-of-both-worlds-paris-texas.html [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].
Ebert, R. 2002. Paris, Texas Movie Review & Film Summary (1984) | Roger Ebert. [online] Available at: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-paris-texas-1984 [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].
The Schleicher Spin. 2009. Revisiting Paris, Texas — The Best Film of the 1980’s. [online] Available at: http://theschleicherspin.com/2009/08/06/revisiting-paris-texas-the-best-film-of-the-1980s/ [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].
Cinematography.com. 2007. Paris, Texas – On Screen. [online] Available at: http://www.cinematography.com/index.php?showtopic=24657 [Accessed: 10 Jul 2013].
About the author:
Chrystal is a girl just trying to get things done in her life, one crisis at a time.