Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Critical Reactions #12 (Paris, Texas)

PARIS, TEXAS was, along with TESS, the best reviewed film of Nastassja's career. Today it is, for the most part, viewed as a bona fide classic so it is a bit surprising to see that there were some negative and mixed reviews. For the most part though it was extremely well received, and Nastassja garnered some of the best notices of her career. Here are some positive, mixed and negative looks at the film ranging from when it was first released up until today.

"...a visual essay on loneliness and the yearning for love...featuring deeply felt performances...a powerfully affecting work charged with more visual and dramatic brilliance than any dozen of Hollywood's current concoctions."
-David Sterritt, Christian Science Monitor-

"mindless travesty"
-Richard Linnett, Cineaste-

"a deeply affecting film...haunting...there is no way to deny the power of Shepard's writing or the extraordinary duet between Stanton and Kinski...a Kinski we have not seen before-powerful, simple, deeply moving..."
-Shelia Benson, LA Times-

"moribund...some great performances...nothing can fully disguise the nullity at the heart of Shepard's vision...Kinski works hard at it...KInski's back is a sight to behold, better than most people's fronts..."
-Daphne Merkin, New Leader-

"Kinski has added Texan to her accents...there are powerful, humorous, loving 'moments'...
-John Coleman, New Statesman-

"Shepard and Wenders make an unfortunate team...may be hip, but it is also boring...
-David Denby, New York-

"Kinski is electrifying, with a robust assurance she's never before shown."
-David Ansen, Newsweek-

"Moments of understated truth and beauty are undercut by the contrived relationships and overall flatness."
-Michael Musto, Saturday Review-

"As powerfully schizoid as its title."
-Richard Corliss, Time-

"A long coast downhill...Kinski is so unlikely, she might be the sister from another planet..."
-J. Hoberman, Village Voice-

"Kinski's part is relatively small but she handles it sensitively enough...perhaps only a foreigner could sense the Americanness of this material and convey it so hauntingly."
-Howard Kissel, Women's Wear Daily-

"The great achievement of Paris, Texas is the way that it so thoroughly demonstrates how one can regress to a point where direct communication becomes impossible. This is a movie is filled with arresting observations about the ways that emotions contradict each other...."
-Jeremy Heilman, Movie Martyr-

"It is a story of the United States, a grim portrait of a land where people like Travis and Jane cannot put down roots, a story of a sprawling, powerful, richly endowed land where people can get desperately lost."
-Newsweek-

"A MASTERPIECE about the agony of lost love, broken families and displaced children. Its imagery evoking the alienating strangeness of the American landscape and its story probing the fantasies of a peep show world."
-Sunday Age-

"One of the great films of recent years."
-The Observer-

"...PARIS, TEXAS is refined arthouse cinema...It's indeed a beautiful film....Some images are positively breathtaking..."
-Holl, Variety-

"moments of serene, unearthly beauty."
-Sam Adams, Entertainment Weekly-

"One of Wenders's most painful and poetic films..."
-Glenn Kenny, Premiere-

"The Texas setting evokes thoughts of the Western, but this movie is not for the desert and against the city; it is about a journey which leads from one to the other and ends in a form of happiness...Then there are the miracles of the performances by Harry Dean Stanton, Nastassja Kinski and Hunter Carson (the son of Karen Black and L.M. "Kit" Carson). Stanton has long inhabited the darker corners of American noir, with his lean face and hungry eyes, and here he creates a sad poetry. Kinski, a German, perfects the flat, half-educated accent of a Texas girl who married a "raggedy" older man for reasons no doubt involving a hard childhood. Young Carson, debating relativity and the origin of the universe, then asking even harder questions such as "why did she leave us?" has that ability some child actors have, of presenting truth without decoration. We care so much for their family, framed lonely and unsure, within a great emptiness."
-Roger Ebert re-reviewing the film in 2002- Full review available here.

"This is a defiantly individual film, about loss and loneliness and eccentricity. We haven't met the characters before in a dozen other films. To some people, that can be disconcerting; I've actually read reviews of "Paris, Texas" complaining because the man in the desert is German, and that another character is French. Is it written that the people in movies have to be Middle Americans, like refugees from a sitcom?
...a movie with the kind of passion and willingness to experiment that was more common fifteen years ago than it is now. It has more links with films like "Five Easy Pieces" and "Easy Rider" and "Midnight Cowboy," than with the slick arcade games that are the box-office winners of the 1980s. It is true, deep, and brilliant."
-Roger Ebert's original review- Full Version is available here.

"overly ambitious but at times compelling contemporary Western that debunks the John Ford "Old West" myth in The Searchers, or at least brings to it a more updated perception..."
-Dennis Schwartz, Ozu's World Movie Reviews-

"Influenced by the American western as much as anything, German filmmaker Wim Wenders sets out to remake the mythic vision of John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) as a different kind of family story, reflecting the reality the director found when he set out to see what has become of the American West for himself. Harry Dean Stanton’s performance as the wandering Travis fleshes out an American archetype, and there’s a certain poetry to the way his face fills up one of these frames. Oddly, he’s cast opposite the very European Nastassja Kinski, playing Jane, the wife whose companionship he forfeited years ago."
-Bryant Frazer, Deep Focus-

"Epic but intimate, PARIS, TEXAS combines the European sensibility of director Wim Wenders with the expansive locations of the American West...Superbly scripted, the film features wonderful performances from all its major players. Equally brilliant, especially in a film that emphasizes script and character, is the cinematography by Robby Muller, perfectly capturing the notion of "America." A final factor in PARIS, TEXAS's success is the remarkably haunting score by blues musician Ry Cooder."
-TV Guide-

"Paris, Texas is a lengthy and quirky movie that is greatly enhanced by the evocative cinematography of Robby Muller and the sensitive music of Ry Cooder. Harry Dean Stanton excels in a role that finally taps into the talents of this incredibly expressive actor. The storyline, with its accent on the lost who are found and the surprise of selfless love, has a spiritual quality that seems well-suited to the desert setting of the film."
-Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice-

"It's a superbly framed film. Every shot is art in itself. Every image is one you could frame. Every scene just rolls along. You find yourself being taken on a journey that leaves you just as confused and aimless as the characters within, and when all becomes clearer it seems like the natural progression. Harry Dean Stanton never can and never will find himself in a role that fits him as well as this one did. He is the wandering man and always will be. This was also Nastassja Kinski's follow-up after playing Susie The Bear in Hotel New Hampshire, so it's anyone's guess as to how her career ended up in the toilet after those two..
Paris, Texas is a masterpiece about the inability of humans to communicate. The characters almost never have a face-to-face conversation and while this is at once frustrating, it's also intriguing. The film took out the Golden Palm at Cannes, as well as a Golden Globe and BAFTA awards - why? Because it's damn good."
-Chris Parry, efilmcritic-

"Wenders' collaboration with writer Sam Shepard is a master-stroke, wholly beneficial to both talents; if Wenders' previous film, The State of Things, was on the very limits of possibility, this one, through its final scenes, pushes the frontier three steps forward into new and sublime territory."
-C.Pea, Time Out-

"...a hard-won miracle..."
Scott Tobias, avclub-

"One of the most preeminent American films of the 1980s...ranks among Wenders's best and most affecting works. A true intersection of Shepard's story of human alienation with Wenders's almost poetic vision of American physical and cultural landscape, the film is a wonderfully bittersweet story of hope that avoids the trappings of self-indulgent quirkiness and overwrought Hollywood sentimentality. This is cinema stripped to its barest form..."
-Dvd Verdict-

"...perfectly magical cinema."
-BBC-

"...one of those rare, magical films that says so much by saying very little...a film of regret, alienation and reconciliation. It is also a distinctly American film, in spite of it being made by one of Germany’s most celebrated directors."
-Evan Pulgino, Camera Eye-

"In the years since its release, Paris, Texas has become widely and deservedly regarded as a near perfect union between cinematography, direction and music, with Cooder's soundtrack dominating discussions of the film. Yet the film is more than a triumph of cinematic technique, for this union does not come at the expense of the actors. Harry Dean Stanton gives the performance of his career as shy but determined Travis, and Natassja Kinski almost steals the show with her portrayal of the beautiful, fragile Jane."
-Andy Gibson, Kamera-

"Nastassja Kinski sets the screen alight with her brief, scintillating, subtly-crafted performance as the loner's former lover."
-Douglas McCabe, Kamera-

"The film is perfectly cast, and while Stanton dominates the film, Dean Stockwell is also effective as the brother torn between love for his brother and fear that his return will mean that he and his wife may lose a child that they have raised as their own son. Hunter Carson is that rare thing – a good eight-year-old actor, while Nastassja Kinski is so beautiful that you truly believe that Travis could have been driven nuts with jealous desire. The ending is the probably the happiest possible outcome for these characters, and yet also desperately sad – it reminded me very much of the final moments of John Ford’s The Searchers. Paris, Texas is easily Wenders' best film, and a masterpiece of loss and regret."
-Daniel Auty, Spinning Image-

"Kinski does a more than passable Texas accent, and the film is a reminder that she wasn't just another pretty French face. She can act, too, and one wishes she'd been given more opportunities to do so."
-Greencine-

PARIS, TEXAS is such an obvious masterpiece to me that it is surprising to see some of the more mixed reactions to it. Despite some of the initial doubters, PARIS, TEXAS is one of the definitive films of the eighties, and it has only grown in stature in the twenty three years since it was first released. My tribute to Wender's great film will continue in the next day or so.

4 comments:

GAMERA_2004 said...

A masterpiece, PARIS, TEXAS is a film that has grown richer over the years.

Your posting of the various reviews, brings back a memory of one of the most interesting Movie ads I have every seen. Back in late 1984 or early 1985 there was a 2-page ad in the weekly Variety from the films distributors. On one page were the more lukewarm American reviews, on the other side the more ecstatic European reviews. The ad was essentially asking, which reviews were the more insightful.

Except for some perceptive reviewers, American critics in 1984
seemed to have a hard time getting their minds around this European director’s view of America. Yet, it was the fulfillment of Wim Wenders lifelong fascination with American culture and life.

Jeremy Richey said...

Wow,
I would love to see that ad...I also wish I had access to more of the original European reviews as I know they were better...
Thanks for the continuing comments...

Rogue Spy 007 said...

It's a shame that so many of the American critics were less than thrilled with this film. It's definitely one of her better films. I'm glad to see that the Europeans gave this film more more of the respect that it deserved.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Keith,
It is amazing that some of the American critics didn't pick up how astounding this film is...