Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. West Germany/France/United Kingdom, 1984. Road Movies Filmproduktion, Argos Films, Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Channel Four Films, Pro-ject Filmproduktion, Wim Wenders Stiftung. Screenplay by Sam Shepard, adaptation by L.M. Kit Carson. Cinematography by Robby Muller. Produced by Anatole Dauman, Don Guest. Music by Ry Cooder. Production Design by Kate Altman. Costume Design by Birgitta Bjerke. Film Editing by Peter Przygodda. Cannes Film Festival 1984. Golden Globe Awards 1984.
Harry Dean Stanton wanders a barren Texas landscape before he walks into a rundown bar and promptly passes out. After examination by a doctor, a phone call is made to his brother Dean Stockwell in Los Angeles, who is grateful to hear of his brother’s being alive and well four years after he disappeared. Stockwell and his wife, a delicately lovely Aurore Clement, have been raising Stanton’s son after the child’s mother (Nastassja Kinski) dropped him on their doorstep years earlier, which raises concerns for Clement now that she has grown to love the boy and does not want to give him up. The reunion of brothers is at first difficult, Stanton refuses to speak, and then when he does, he says that he wants to be taken to an empty plot of land that he owns in a town called Paris. Instead he goes back to L.A. with his brother, but it soon becomes necessary to find his long-lost wife and be reunited with her; his gradually recalling the circumstances that drove them apart, however, makes this complicated and leads to a bittersweet conclusion. Wim Wenders’ masterful examination of a tragic family situation almost feels as if it is about human life itself, with no easy answers for these people, in fact there are no answers at all, only the pain of existence rendered with enormous sympathy. It’s the most beautifully sad movie since Mizoguchi’s Sansho The Bailiff, heavy on plot details but, in focusing on its characters’ constant state of ambivalence, it never feels like melodrama, Its wide visual panoramas are intelligently at odds with the few but poignant characters who occupy them. Kinski’s contribution to the last third of the film only adding to the overwhelming emotional result of the experience.