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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt

Paris, Texas

Wim Wenders relaxed and off-center 1984 road movie, Paris, Texas, has been released in a two-platter set by the Criterion Collection. The transfer is outstanding. The picture is presented in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 1.78:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. The image is vividly crisp and colors are precise on every frame. The picture quality is highly captivating and, without distracting from the film’s essence, provides a dazzling showcase for Robby Muller’s superb cinematography. The musical score, by Ry Cooder, feels as smooth as silk on the 5.1-channel Dolby Digital soundtrack.

Harry Dean Stanton stars, first wandering out of the Texas desert, mute, and eventually retrieved by his brother, played by Dean Stockwell. Once he starts talking, they drive to California, where Stockwell’s character has been looking after the young son of Stanton’s character, and when the two re-unite, Stanton’s character takes the boy and returns to Texas, to look for the boy’s mother, his ex-wife, played by Nastassja Kinski. Their uneven reunion forms the climax of the 145-minute feature. They never actually travel to the titular location, although it is referred to in the dialog on several occasions. The film’s relative aimlessness-fully explained in the DVD’s supplement by the fact that the second half of the script was made up on the fly after the first half had been shot-is offset by its quirky atmosphere and masterful composition, components that are enhanced by the quality of the DVD and even more so by the quality of Criterion’s Blu-ray. Those who already like the film will be ecstatic with the presentation, while those who are not so enamored will be better able to appreciate its value and tolerate its shortcomings. The DVD is great, but the BD format places the title somewhere in the ‘all time greatest transfers ever’ category, and will leave even viewers who don’t care for the film mesmerized by every scene. The upgrade to DTS sound on the BD is equally rapturous, giving Cooder’s music a penetrating crispness and solidity of detail that the DVD’s track can only hint at.

The film is supported by optional English subtitles. Except for a trailer and Wenders’ commentary, the special features on the DVD are relegated to a second platter, but are combined with the film on the single BD platter. Wenders, in a vocal style that matches the downshifted pace of his films, shares many anecdotes about the production, describes the contributions of his cast and crew, discusses the ins and outs of the story and otherwise supplies a reasonably clear and comprehensive survey of the film’s creation and purpose.

There are 24 minutes of deleted scenes. Some are just more pretty pictures of Southwestern vistas, but there are several interesting dramatic sequences that were dropped for hints of redundancy or straying too far from the already meandering narrative vector. Wenders supplies an optional commentary explaining the reasons for their deletion. During one scene in the film, the characters look at ‘home movies’ that show Stanton and Kinski’s characters during a happier point in their marriage, and a more complete set of these films, running 7 minutes, is also presented. An exceptional collection of behind-the-scenes snapshots appear in still frame. Wenders discusses the film some more in a 29-minute interview made for German television in 2001. Another 12-minute TV piece, from 1984, shows Wenders and Cooder working on a sequence. A 43-minute retrospective piece includes interviews with a number of participants-while he hides it well, it is fairly clear that Stanton still despises the ending of the film-and there is an extended 20-minute interview with production assistant Claire Denis, who went on to become a director herself. But if you watch just one supplementary piece, it should be the 25-minute interview with Allison Anders, who also worked as a production assistant and has several terrific anecdotes, especially one about advising Stanton on what it is like to go mute for a while.

– by Douglas Pratt

Douglas Pratt’s DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter is published monthly.
For a free sample, call (516)594-9304 or go to his website at

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