DVD Review HTF DVD REVIEW: Paris, Texas

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Matt Hough, Jan 17, 2010.

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  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Paris Texas

    Directed by Wim Wenders

    Studio: Criterion
    Year: 1984
    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
    Running Time: 145 minutes
    Rating: NR
    Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
    Subtitles: SDH
    MSRP: $ 39.95

    Release Date: January 26, 2010
    Review Date: January 17, 2010
     
     
    The Film
    4.5/5
     
    Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas is part psychological mystery while at the same time a brilliant character study told in the director’s familiar languid style but with effortless grace and with a delicately coruscating eye for what makes these characters tick. Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival but widely shunned in this country upon its initial theatrical release, the film has stood the test of time representing a set of characters at a decisive moment where decisions made will have profound effects on how the rest of their lives unfold. It’s a haunting and, in many ways, a bleakly melancholy story.
     
    Discovered comatose in the Mohave Desert after a four year disappearance, Travis (Harry Dean Stanton) is brought home to Los Angeles by his concerned and loyal brother Walt (Dean Stockwell) in order to recover from years of neglect and obvious malnutrition. Walt and his wife Anne (Aurore Clement) have assumed guardianship of Travis’ son Hunter (Hunter Carson) when Travis’ wife Jane (Nastassja Kinski) also left mysteriously after Travis disappeared. Walt and Anne have come to think of Hunter as their own son, but after viewing a five year old home movie that features the two couples in happier times with the (then) three year old Hunter, Travis decides with Hunter’s approval to go together to find the missing Jane so Hunter can get to know her.
     
    Typical of his theatrical plays and his movie scripts, Sam Shepard’s screenplay for Paris, Texas makes the film’s dramatic core an internalized affair. So much is going on within these tortured and grieving characters that it’s sometimes agony waiting for the feelings to rise to the surface so we can experience them. But the playwright never lets us down as one by one we get to the nucleus of each main character’s persona, and we’re never disappointed: the sad stories bristle with the kind of quiet aching that’s a hallmark of his best work. Wim Wenders has captured the look and feel of both Texas and Los Angeles in the movie (aided by the starkly colorful cinematography of Robby Müller) and has let the actors work through their characterizations so astutely that we feel their joys and regrets right along with them (watching them reacting to the old Super 8 home movie with delight and a desperate longing to recapture old emotions is among the film’s most beautiful sequences). And that ending where we witness a reconciliation, a rebirth, and a resignation all at once is at the same time both a triumph and a tragedy, one of the most profoundly moving climaxes imaginable.
     
    Harry Dean Stanton rarely was given a role of such depth and pathos, and he delivers all the goods with his most sensitive and accurate portrayal. Nastassja Kinski doesn’t appear in a major way until the film’s last quarter hour, but she makes every moment she’s on the screen count (despite letting her southern accent slip in a few moments), and she does it mostly not through actions but with reactions as her façade slowly crumbles as she realizes whom she’s talking to and what she’s done. Dean Stockwell is brotherly love personified as Walt, the kind of brother all of us wish we could claim as our own. Aurore Clement’s Anne has continental manners and a depth of motherly passion that makes what happens in the movie doubly heartbreaking. Hunter Carson (son of actress Karen Black and script adaptor Kit Carson) makes a lovely film debut, a natural child actor with the hesitancies and enthusiasms all completely natural and endearing. Bernhard Wicki as the desert doctor who treats Travis near the movie’s beginning has a couple of very effective scenes.
     
     
    Video Quality
    4.5/5
     
    The movie has been framed at 1.78:1 (as per the director’s wishes) and is delivered in a transfer that’s anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. It’s a beautifully sharp and vivid picture with very solid color (with only a slight tendency for the reds to bloom), inky blacks, and good shadow detail. There are lots of details to see in skin, the fabrics of clothes, and various desert flora and fauna. The film has been divided into 15 chapters.
     
     
    Audio Quality
    3/5
     
    The film has been given a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track, but with the audio material at hand, it doesn’t really seem necessary. Only Ry Cooder’s twangy music finds its way through the surround fronts and into the rear channels. Many of the ambient effects of the movie stay in the front soundfield (airplanes taking off, cars speeding by) leaving the rears and subwoofer underutilized. There is also a slight degree of hiss present on the track and a slight phasing problem with some dialogue moving away from the center channel momentarily.
     
     
    Special Features
    4.5/5
     
    Disc one contains the audio commentary by director Wim Wenders. Speaking English, he has a slow, halting delivery, and oftentimes he describes what we’re seeing on the screen, but he does interject quite a few anecdotes on the casting of the movie and production problems that plagued the film during its production, so it is a worthwhile listen.
     
    Disc one also contains the film’s theatrical trailer which runs for 2 ¼ minutes in anamorphic widescreen.
     
    The majority of the bonus features are on the second disc in the set.
     
    A 2001 interview with director Wim Wenders  is conducted in German with English subtitles. All of the content is also contained in the audio commentary, but he does go into detail about the film’s reception around the world, its poor distribution in Germany (though it was a hit in other European cities and Japan), and the hostile reaction some American critics had to it. He also mentions the night of the Cannes award ceremony and how he expected John Huston to come away the winner. This informative interview lasts 29 minutes and is presented in 4:3.
     
    “The Road to Paris, Texas is a series of 1989 interviews with actors and crew from various movies directed by Wim Wenders who discuss him as a director and a person: his methodology, his themes, his moods, his camaraderie. This 4:3 featurette of talking heads runs 42 ¾ minutes.
     
    Two assistants on Paris, Texas who have gone on to become filmmakers in their own rights are interviewed. Claire Denis who was first assistant director talks for 20 ½ minutes. Allison Anders, who kept journals during her time as a production assistant and who reads from them and also shares other personal reminiscences, speaks for 25 ½ minutes. Both interviews are in anamorphic widescreen and were conducted in 2009.
     
    An excerpt from the French television series Cinéma Cinémas features Win Wenders working with Ry Cooder on the score to the movie mere weeks before its unveiling at Cannes. The 4:3 interview lasts 12 ½ minutes.
     
    There are five deleted scenes which must be viewed in one 23 ½-minute grouping. The viewer may turn on the optional audio commentary by Wim Wenders explaining why the material was cut.
     
    The Super 8 footage shot for the home movie sequence is presented in a 7-minute montage with Ry Cooder music accompanying it. On the alternate audio track is Harry Dean Stanton’s climactic monologue from the film.
     
    There are two photo galleries which may be stepped through. The first group of stills appeared in Wim Wenders’ book Written in the West which is a collection of snapshots he took while scouting locations. The second group of behind-the-scenes stills is by Robin Holland.
     
    The enclosed 46-page booklet contains cast and crew lists, a nice selection of stills from the film, an appreciative essay on the movie by film professor Nick Roddick, reminiscences by Dean Stockwell, Nastassja Kinski, and Harry Dean Stanton, and excerpts from Wim Wenders’ own journals as he scouted America for locations.
     
     
    In Conclusion
    4.5/5 (not an average)
     
    A sometimes joyous if often meditative reflection on the turning point of a person’s life and the desperate desire for a second chance, Paris, Texas is soul searching and memorable, and the Criterion DVD set shows the film off with great aplomb. Highly recommended!
     
     
     
    Matt Hough
    Charlotte, NC
     
  2. Jon Martin

    Jon Martin Cinematographer

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    As much as I love the film, I was going through my DVDs yesterday and noticed my PARIS, TEXAS DVD was still sealed.

    I guess that was a sign I shouldn't buy it again, especially since many of the extras seem to be taken from that first release.
     
  3. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    Had no idea Criterion was releasing this. I love the look of the film. One of the most incisive dramas I've seen and one of best films of the 1980s decade. Although not officially acknowledged, playwright / screen writer Sam Shepard was inspired to write it by the Bob Dylan song "Tangled Up In Blue" on the Blood On the Tracks album. If you listen to the song before watching the film you'll see it has more than the story structure in common. I've watched the DVD several times and I'm buying the Blu-ray.
     
  4. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    The Blu-ray review for this title will be ready at the end of the week.
     

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