Paris, Texas is a 1984 drama film directed by Wim Wenders and starring Harry Dean Stanton, Dean Stockwell, Nastassja Kinski, and Hunter Carson. The screenplay was written by L.M. Kit Carson and playwright Sam Shepard, and the distinctive musical score was composed by Ry Cooder. The cinematography was by Robby Müller. The film was a co-production between companies in France and West Germany, and was filmed in the United States.
The plot focuses on an amnesiac (Stanton) who, after mysteriously wandering out of the desert, attempts to revive his life with his brother (Stockwell) and seven-year-old son (Carson), and to track down his former wife (Kinski). At the 1984 Cannes Film Festival, the film unanimously won the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) from the official jury, as well as the FIPRESCI Prize and thePrize of the Ecumenical Jury. The film has been released on DVD and Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection.
Travis Henderson (Harry Dean Stanton) is walking alone across a vast South Texas desert landscape. Looking for water, he enters a saloon and collapses. He is treated by a doctor, but does not speak or respond to questions. The doctor finds a phone number on Travis, calls the Los Angeles number, and reaches his brother, Walt Henderson (Dean Stockwell), who agrees to pick him up. When Walt arrives in Texas, he discovers that Travis is gone. When he finds him wandering alone, Walt tells his silent brother that he will take him back to Los Angeles.
When Travis refuses to fly, Walt rents a car, and the brothers begin a two-day road trip back to Los Angeles. They stop at a motel, but Travis wanders off again. Walt finds him, and the two drive to a diner, where Walt begins to question the still silent Travis more forcefully about his disappearance. Walt and his wife, Anne (Aurore Clément), have not heard from Travis in four years. After Travis abandoned his son Hunter (Hunter Carson), Walt and Anne took care of him for four years. Travis is visibly moved by the mention of his son, and tears flow from his eyes. The next day, as the two brothers continue their journey, Travis finally speaks in the car, showing Walt a weathered photograph of a vacant lot. He explains that he purchased the property inParis, Texas—a town he believes is the place where he was conceived, based on the stories told by their mother.
When they arrive in Los Angeles, Travis meets Anne and the son whom he abandoned four years earlier. Hunter is uncomfortable around this stranger who is his father. Walt shows some old home movies, hoping to evoke good memories and help break the ice between the father and son. The movies show Travis with his wife, Jane (Nastassja Kinski), and their young son, sharing a day at the beach.
In the coming days, the relationship between Travis and his son slowly grows, and a bond of trust between the two starts to develop. Anne tells Travis that although she has not heard from Hunter's mother in a year, Jane still deposits money into a bank account for her son on the same day each month. She reveals the name of the bank in Houston, Texas, where the deposits are made. Travis becomes determined to find his lost wife, and when he tells his son that he plans to travel to Houston to find his mother, the boy says he will accompany him.
Travis and Hunter leave for Texas without telling Walt and Anne. During their journey, Travis and Hunter grow closer, with Hunter sharing things he learned in school, and Travis sharing his memories. When they arrive in Houston on the expected day of deposit, Hunter spots his mother leaving the bank. They follow her to a parking lot of a striptease club. Telling Hunter to wait in the car, Travis enters the club, containing rooms where customers sit behind one-way mirrors and tell the strippers what they want to see via telephone. The women cannot see the customers. Travis is shocked, but ends up in a room opposite Jane. After several minutes of awkward silence, Travis walks out, returns to the car, and drives to a bar, where he begins to drink.
The next day, Travis drops Hunter off at the Meridien Hotel in downtown Houston, and heads back to the striptease club. Travis enters a room with Jane on the other side of the one-way mirror. He picks up the phone, turns his chair away from her, and tells her a story of a man and a young girl who fell in love, married, and had a child—probably before they were ready. At first, Jane is confused by the story, but she soon understands who is on the other side of the glass telling the true story of their relationship. Travis describes how this couple's love turned from being joyful to stifling, explains how the drunken man suffocated the young girl with his jealousy and control, and tells how he came to loathe himself and why he disappeared to a place with "no language" and "no roads"—never wanting to see anyone again.
When Travis prepares to leave, Jane urges him to stay. She tells how hard it was to leave him—that for years she thought of him often. Travis finally faces the glass, turns a lamp on his face so Jane can see him, and tells her where she can find Hunter, asking her to go there and reunite with her son. Jane agrees and Travis leaves the room. Later that day, Jane enters the hotel room where Hunter is waiting, and the mother and child embrace each other. Travis leaves Houston behind him, driving alone.
- Harry Dean Stanton as Travis Henderson
- Sam Berry as Gas Station Attendant
- Bernhard Wicki as Doctor Ulmer
- Dean Stockwell as Walt Henderson
- Aurore Clément as Anne Henderson
- Claresie Mobley as Car Rental Clerk
- Hunter Carson as Hunter Henderson
- Viva as Woman on TV
- Socorro Valdez as Carmelita
- Edward Fayton as Hunter's Friend
- Justin Hogg as Hunter (age 3)
- Nastassja Kinski as Jane Henderson
- Tom Farrell as Screaming Man
- John Lurie as Slater
- Jeni Vici as Stretch