France

Paris, Texas

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1984 – Directed by Wim Wenders

I got inspired to go back and watch Paris, Texas again. The movie struck me quite a bit when it came out, and I was obsessed with the Ry Cooder soundtrack. There are obviously a lot of parallels between this film and the 10 years earlier Alice in the Cities. Again, we see the mediation of the direct experience through photographic images. Again we see lost and disconnected people. Also again we see semi-abandoned children, which set off alarm bells to us now, and are difficult to watch without judging, or at least fretting. No seat belts? Eek.

This is another road movie, of course, and constantly presented with a contrast not just between the direct experience and the captured image but the contrast between wide-open spaces and flattened spaces. The Dean Stockwell character, interestingly, creates billboards. the Nasstasja Kinski character, Jane, also interestingly works in a very odd strip club consisting of these strange foreshortened rooms resembling familiar public spaces.

The movie, then, as now, has a slight “ick” factor to me: i’ve never cared for the romantic depiction of what was obviously an abusive and possible even statutory rape situation between the Harry Dean Stanton character, Travis, and Jane. Our gaze upon her remains problematic. The rest of the relationships are more intriguing, such as between the child, Hunter, and Travis.

The movie doesn’t hold up quite as well as it could over time, and it times it lingers a bit too long on the idea of American vastness and emptiness. Still the geography is captivating, if, at times, inaccurate. Having now lived in Houston, can assure you that the place the Jane character turns off to after getting off the Interstate is absolutely not the neighborhood where the strip club is depicted to be.

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That neighborhood, were we to see it, is one of those typical Houston suburban-y areas filled with tract homes and cookie-cutter apartment complexes and little shack-like mom and pop businesses: not an urbanized back alley with murals and parking lots.

Below is the neighborhood near Shepherd off of I-10 (the Katy Freeway):

imageWhere is that damn Statue of Liberty mural? Oh, well, it has been thirty years...

Versus the movie:

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It took a while to scout out an actual urban part of Houston, but we did it!

That neighborhood is apparently near US Highway 59 and State Highway 288, near downtown, which is about 12 miles southeast from where we think we are, though I cannot find the exact intersections. We are definitely looking at a hybridized, fictionalized, perhaps mythologized, city.

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Le plaisir

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1952 – Directed by Max Ophüls

OK, I have to admit I did not watch the whole thing yet. If this is what is published Saturday morning, so be it.

I will say, I see where Wes Anderson likely got some inspiration for The Grand Budapest Hotel, with all the ersatz European decay.

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Interesting fact: most every time I watch Wes Anderson’s movies, I feel literally sick to my stomach. This is not to say I dislike his work, and it may be that it all references back to my having originally seen The Royal Tennenbaums in early fits of morning sickness, but his movies are so rich and trifling and twee, that I always feel like I ate too many bonbons.

Le plaisir inspires a similar reaction. Sugary sweet, full of rather insipid tropes (hooker with the heart of gold, vain, impudent model, burly sailors in striped shirts getting into brawls, lovestruck artist breaking everything in sight… these were certainly tired old references in 1952), I found it hard to invest in it to any great extent.

As an omnibus (three short stories from Guy de Maupassant) it is an odd structure: a rather long story flanked by micro story up front and a longer short story at the end. The omnibus is one of the harder forms to pull off. This one I would rank as relatively successful, given the content.

Next up is a gritty political thriller. Let’s see how that goes.