June 21, 2009
Paris, Texas (For Fathers' Day)
For my money, the best movie about fatherhood is Wim Wenders and Sam Shepard’s Paris, Texas:
Travis (played by Harry Dean Stanton) emerges in the deserts of West Texas without any memory or speech. A doctor contacts his brother Walt, and driving back to California, Travis slowly begins to open up. Walt likewise reveals that he and his wife Anne have been raising Travis’s young son Hunter since shortly after Travis originally disappeared. Travis and Hunter then go to find Hunter’s mother, Jane (Nastassja Kinski), who’s likewise vanished.
Here’s a favorite exchange, taken from the screenplay [lightly formatted by me]:
Walt: Trav, I need to talk to you a little bit about Hunter.
Travis: How old is he now?
W: He’s eight in January.
T: He’s seven, then.
W: Yeah. [Pause] But see what I want to talk about is uh … Well, he’s-he’s like part of the family now. Anne and me are like his parents now.
T: Anne’s your wife?
W: Yeah. You remember her, don’t you?
T: No. [Pause.] Does he think that you are his father?
W: Well … Anne told him you were coming.
T:Well who does he think I am?
W: I-I told him you are his father. But see … Well, you’ve been gone a long time, Trav.
T: How long have I been gone, do you know?
W: Four years.
T: Is four years a long time?
W: Well, it is for a little boy. It’s half his life.
T: Half a boy’s life. [Pause.] I remember now!
T: Why I bought that land.
W: Oh, Why?
T: Well … Mama once told me that uh … that’s where she and Daddy … first … made love.
W: Oh, in Paris, Texas?
W: She told you that?
T: Yeah. [Pause.] So … I figured that that’s where I-I have began. [Pause] I mean me, Travis Clay Henderson. They named me that. [Pause.] I started out there.
W: Paris, Texas, huh?
W: So you think maybe you were conceived there?
W: You could be right, Travis.
T: Daddy always had a joke about it.
W: What was the joke?
T: He’s uh … he would introduce Mama… as the girl he met in Paris. Then he’d waited uh … before he said “Texas” till everybody thought that … he meant … he would wait before he said “Texas” till everybody thought … after everyone thought he was talking about Paris, France. He always laughed real hard about it.
This movie can (and should) wreck you, it’s that good.