Sometimes it can feel like you’ve already watched most of the classics, or at least the ones that appeal to you most strongly. With such a rich back catalogue of brilliant films from across the world, it is to be expected that the occasional gem may pass you by entirely. Relying on streaming services as your primary way of accessing these catalogues definitely has it’s pros and cons, with one of the main issues being that whoever selects the available movies for Netflix or Amazon Prime acts as a kind of tastemaker for the general public. I’m already anticipating a revival of conversations about ‘Joker’ after it’s put onto Netflix later this month. These services do usually have a good variety and there are even more specialist alternatives like Mubi, or even the Belmont Filmhouse’s streaming platform, that often showcase lesser known classics and hidden gems.
Paris, Texas has been on my watch list for years, although I had very little idea of what it was about. The 1984 cult classic never seemed to be available to stream until it recently appeared on All4, of all places. Even though I now know what it’s about, any summary or synopsis can’t do this film justice. The premise is fairly straightforward, we meet a man wandering the plains of Texas and quickly find out that he has no memory of who he is or how he ended up walking endless miles in the desert. The man, who’s name turns out to be Travis, is lost in a trance and although he is stopped and speaks to a concerned stranger he very quickly takes off walking again. Nothing can stop him from walking and even when his brother is contacted and eventually tracks him down, Travis still seems to be in a sort of trance and is generally in a confused state. The pair eventually make their way to Los Angeles and we begin to see remnants of Travis’ past life return to him.
We discover that Travis has been missing for four years and that he left behind a wife and son, with the latter now being in his brother’s care. The father and son are reunited but after four years the young child is distant and unsure of the man standing before him who he is told is his real dad. Hunter, the son, soon opens up after watching home movies and the pair then try to track down the boy’s mother who they are told may be in Houston. On their journey back to Texas the father and son open up and chat about anything and everything, not least how they will track down Hunter’s mother, Jane.
In Houston they discover that Jane is working at a seedy peep-show and so Travis goes to see her. At the peep-show we are treated to one of the best scenes that you will see in any movie. As his memories slide back into place and Travis finally remembers why he abandoned his family he delivers a beautifully written monologue to his estranged wife, all the while she cannot see his face or know for certain that she is speaking to him. What is described in this monologue is a story of a messy and abusive relationship between a man and a younger woman, one that began with love but descended into alcoholism and depression.
I won’t go into any further details as I’ve probably already said too much about this amazing film. Upon watching Paris, Texas you can see why it has such critical acclaim and its status as a cult classic. The movie is shot beautifully and doesn’t rely on special effects or even any sort of action whatsoever. All the film needs to convey a plethora of emotions is a great script, some stunning shots and perfectly thought through characters who feel real. I would even say, now that I’ve watched it and had some time to think, that Paris, Texas is one of my favourite movies of all time. It’s simple, it’s genius and in my eyes it is perfect.
Words by Ewan Blacklaw