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Quay dog

European sound .... or is it colour?: [2]

Lucile Dollat of the Paris Conservatoire



Crêpes suzettes, Onassis on the quay, Graham Hill on the grid - no problem George and Tammy[1] - but Paris, Texas - now that sounds like a real exotic location!

It sounded even more alluring when I tied Ry Cooder's luminously well recorded track, Paris, Texas, to the fact that it comes from the opening sequence to the film that won the Palme d'Or in 1984.

The plot of the film and many of the sub-themes are, in fact, just like the storylines you get in country music songs. A French/German production by Wim Wenders, it is all about America.

It starts off comedic but there is economy in the great range of cinematic signalling and symbolism it runs through. So you get humorous, farce, serious, tragic, space fiction, car chase, through the looking glass, mirroring, grief, biblical, unreal city, western, amnesia, confession, punishment, redemption, you name it. All the genres. Taken together it is brilliant but not the slightest strand of a European or eastern theme surfaces, not a building with European detailing. The Old World does not exist here any more than it does in country music.

Yet you can see why the jury at Cannes would have loved it. Walt's (Dean Stockwell) wife, Anne (Aurore Clement), is French, with no reason given, with American behaviour but just enough French emotional warmth. The use of colour is brilliant and not particularly American either.

Travis (Harry Dean Stanton), the hero, transits from being virtually dumb to almost a verbal philosopher in the mirror scenes - perhaps a weak spot in the film's narrative credibility - but then sounds, or Cooder's music, or colour make other transitions so well that you mark up the skill that has been shown in making this film range so wide.

The child lover or child bride, Jane (Nastassja Kinski), has body language and looks that are European, quite divorced from what might be expected of someone who has lived in a trailer. The location of her redemption, 15/20, where she wears matching fabric colours to the person she hugs, another brilliant piece of symbolism, is so relatively opulent that she must have stepped out of a pumpkin carriage. Yet one has to believe that this is the transition intended.

There is a quiet gentleness and absence of assertiveness to the whole which is not American. Yet in the kid, Hunter (Hunter Carson), who is also a hunter by nature, Travis meets his match. If there is a relatively cold fish in this film, it is this seven year old (who looks older). His judgments of others can have a razor edge but then, in children's adventures, casualties are two a penny. He somehow gets what he wants - a route to an even better life.

We have not got to Paris. You will have to see it for yourself.