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  Directed by
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  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.66:1
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 78.49)
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Mono
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  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Animated menus
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Paris, Texas

Madman Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 139 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

After over 30 years of making films, German director Wim Wenders is, to most, as enigmatic as ever. Lauded by his fans as a modern cinema genius – and often pilloried by those who don’t click with his unique style of filmmaking and storytelling – Wenders’ career to date has always been fascinating, and has often produced bona fide classics. His best films are very, very human stories - meditative works that explore the deep inner feelings and emotions of the main characters, while the wider world goes about its business around them, oblivious to the drama being played out. 1987’s Wings Of Desire – arguably his finest moment to date – and 1991’s wonderful, underrated Until The End Of The World both took this approach with great success. But it was 1984’s Paris, Texas that truly embraced this illustration of the small but vital things of life. Gaining huge acclaim from critics, the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival and a merciless bagging from the anti-Wenders camp, Paris, Texas is, 17 years later, still the film that most people identify with the artist that is Wim Wenders.

The story is, of course, simple. As the film opens, a man (Harry Dean Stanton, in one of the finest performances of his career) is wandering through the desert, putting one foot in front of another with a kind of grim determination to get somewhere – but exactly where we do not know, and neither, it seems, does he. Collapsing from exhaustion and starvation in a small town near the Mexico-US border, he is soon identified as Travis, the brother of successful businessman Walt (Dean Stockwell). Travis has been missing for over four years – as has his wife, Jane (Nastassja Kinski) - and his young son Hunter is now being cared for by Walt and his wife Anne (Aurore Clément), who have effectively become the boy’s parents. Walt journeys to Texas to find his brother and bring him back home – but there’s more to this story than first meets the eye, and as Travis readapts to society some truths begin to come out on all sides.

To tell more than this barest fragment of the story of Paris, Texas would seriously lessen its impact; that’s something we have no intention of doing. But suffice to say there are many surprises here as the story slowly but inexorably unfolds. Wenders takes his time – this is by no means a fast-paced movie. But that languid pace suits the subject matter perfectly, and is emphasised by Ry Cooder’s now-familiar slide guitar score and Robby Müller’s astonishingly rich and innovative cinematography.

Perhaps the only small problem here – and it’s one that many of Wenders’ English-language films suffer from – is in the use of foreign actors, especially Clement (who is French) in the vital role of Anne, struggling with her English and as a result sounding at times like she’s reciting a script rather than becoming a character. But that’s a minor complaint; there’s so much that’s good about Paris, Texas that it’s easy to ignore inconsistencies such as this (and those familiar with Wenders’ work will already be well aware of the director’s penchant for casting his films internationally – Peter Falk turning up speaking in English in the midst of Wings Of Desire immediately springs to mind). The screenplay is distinctly American (and indeed, was written by the undeniably American Sam Shepard, with Texan actor-writer L.M. Kit Carson assisting), and Wenders captures the huge expanse and unique nature of the different facets of the US with the kind of keen eye only a tourist can have. Make no mistake – directed by an American, Paris, Texas would have been a massively different proposition.

  Video
Contract

Never especially well treated on home video, Paris, Texas has not been graced with a stunning video transfer for this DVD release, though it is easily the best video presentation of the film thus far. Transferred from a somewhat average release print (although thankfully a clean one) rather than an interpositive, the video here suffers from the usual problems associated with using a theatrical print as a source. Most noticeable are the reel-change marks, which crop up from time to time; interestingly, these do not appear at the end of every reel, and the second reel-change mark is always missing, implying that some judicious trimming went on during the telecine process (which could, possibly, explain the unexpectedly short running time of 139 minutes – the theatrical run time was 150 minutes, and PAL speedup doesn’t fully explain the length here). While colour stability is excellent, the film looks more washed-out than it should at times, and way too murky and dark at others; obviously proper contrast adjustment was not done here. There’s also a fair amount of grain present, some film weave and some unusual video noise on intense reds such as the opening credits. Given all this, we’d guess that this telecine transfer dates from the pre-digital days of the early ‘90s, though its “look” here could just as easily have been due to a combination of the use of a release print and a low-budget telecine transfer.

Don’t get the impression from the above that this is a bad transfer – it is certainly not, and as we said before this is the best the film has looked to date on home video. It’s just not up to the standard of a modern telecine transfer, and the DVD format lets us see the flaws here all too clearly.

The aspect ratio is correct at 1.66:1, but the video on this DVD is not 16:9 enhanced. There are no problems with the video compression here, which is up to the usual high Madman Interactive standard.

This is a dual layered disc; the layer change (at the 78.49 mark) is well placed and reasonably quickly navigated.

  Audio
Contract

While listed on the back cover as being in “Dolby Stereo”, the sound for Paris, Texas was originally mixed in mono, and that’s what is presented here – although quite obviously this track was captured from a two-channel optical track reader on the telecine equipment. That fact is plainly obvious from the amount of crackling, buzzing and other nasty optical soundtrack quirks that are all presented in glorious stereo while the actual soundtrack sits stop it all in the centre channel. There is some “bleed” to the side channels during some of the music score passages, but this is unintentional and caused either by problems with the optical track itself or the master used to record it. Along with this, there’s analogue tape hiss in stereo as well – and annoyingly, some kind of noise gate seems to have been used here in an attempt to get the hiss to a lower level. The result of that is some considerable “pumping” of the tape hiss every time someone speaks a line of dialogue.

Fidelity is very average – pretty much on par with a non-Dolby optical track – but is adequate for this largely dialogue-driven film.

We would have much preferred to have see this audio track summed into mono and encoded as Dolby Digital 1.0, which would have lessened the distractions; even better, the right channel audio track on the master could have been dropped completely and the left channel encoded in mono, which would have eliminated almost all the major noise problems (aside from the hiss, they all happen almost exclusively in the right channel). Those whose DVD players allow them to do so should select the left channel only to watch this disc for best results.

  Extras
Contract

There’s not much here in the way of extra features, which is to be expected: at the time of writing, this film has not been released on DVD in any major territories outside of Australia to date except for Japan. As usual with titles authored by the Madman Interactive team, the main menu is fully animated with audio, and is very stylishly done indeed. The disc makes use of the jacket picture feature (which will display on Sony players) and is encoded with DVD Text.

Theatrical Trailer: A two-minute promo for Paris, Texas and its Cannes win, put together by someone who quite obviously didn’t understand the intentions of the film at all. It does, nevertheless, capture the atmosphere quite well. Video and audio quality here is roughly on par with the main feature.

Profiles: Bios (but not filmographies) for Wenders, Stanton and Kinski. The Wim Wenders profile is unusual, to say the least – it reads like an article from a business paper, paying way more attention to the man’s myriad production companies than it does to his actual art! This is massively compensated for, though, by the 21-page 1984 interview that’s linked from Wenders’ profile page, which provides plenty of fascinating insight into the creation of the film. The final page of the Wenders profile also contains a link to a trailer for the director’s 1999 documentary Buena Vista Social Club – which, ironically, is released on DVD in Australia by another company. The too-brief three-page profiles of Kinski and Stanton are far less interesting, but Stanton also scores an interview section (8 pages), which like Wenders’ is also of 1984 vintage.

Awards And Nominations: A static screen listing the awards Paris, Texas scored after its release.

Soundtrack CD: A static advertisement for Warner Music’s soundtrack CD, possibly here in return for the use of music from it in the main menu.

Madman Propaganda: The usual (and always welcome) selection of trailers for other Madman Cinema DVD releases; this time around we have trailers for The Bank, Beau Travail, Betty Blue, Mullet and the omnipresent trailer for Amores Perros, which has been on every Madman DVD we’ve seen recently – presumably someone there is a major fan of that film!

  Overall  
Contract

Subtle, observant and exceptionally stylish, Paris, Texas is a landmark moment in the career of one of the most fascinating directors of the late 20th century. Madman’s DVD, while hampered somewhat by the available source material, presents the film at the best quality currently possible (we’d love to see a new hi-def transfer done of this film, but that’s not likely any time soon). While it’s hardly state-of-the-art in technical terms, fans of the movie (as well as those discovering it for the first time) should not hesitate to grab a copy of this disc.


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      And I quote...
    "...a landmark moment in the career of one of the most fascinating directors of the late 20th century."
    - Anthony Horan
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS300
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-AV1020
    • Speakers:
          Klipsch Tangent 500
    • Surrounds:
          Jamo
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
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