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Paris, Texas (1984)
The Ultimate Anti-Romance.
I would say that Paris, Texas is not for everyone, but, truly, that can be said about every movie. But I will say this: fans of methodically paced, beautifully shot, existentially rooted, and purely experiential cinema will not be disappointed.
Paris, Texas is virtually my favorite movie, and a movie that, whether you like it or not, will leave some impact on you. It is a journey, an experience, an odyssey.
Yes, it is long. Yes, it is slow. Defined plot points? Please.
But what this movie does do is place into the mind of it's lead character. Travis Henderson, an older man, gruff and worn out with age, wanders out of the Texas desert after missing from his family for four years. He is mute, and apparently unaware of who he is. His brother Walt finds him, and tries to rehabilitate him back into sanity. The film then covers Travis's journey to reconnect with a past which he has long since forgotten. He reunites with his son, his sister in-law, and eventually, in a scene which I tear up just thinking about, his wife.
But that is all I will divulge about his wife. That is a scene which you really have to see to believe.
While this film really doesn't rely on plot, it does have structure and tone. And what carries us through this mystical story is the unbelievably beautiful photography. We see the world as it should be seen: a starkly beautiful, but uncompromising, place. The use of color and motifs really makes this film a marvel to look at.
And then we get to performances. Everyone's great, so I will focus on our two truly main characters. Harry Dean Stanton plays Travis, a gentle, kind man, that, despite having personal demons, is a great fatherly figure (fine, maybe he isn't the best father...but there's no denying he left an impact on his son's life). And seeing Stanton bring this character to life in the most subtle and somber way possible is amazing. And then we have Natassja Kinski, who plays Jane, his wife. She doesn't show up until the third act, and 95% percent of her performance takes place in one room. But Kinski's portrayal of emotion...and her quiet, yet powerful demeanor...and the way she talks...god, it's unbelievable. Stanton and Kinski have some of the best chemistry ever, which is even more impressive considering they're never in the same room (see the movie...you'll understand). In the end, these two carry the movie on their backs, and do an amazing job doing it.
You may not cry, but you will think about crying. You will think about all the sad moments in your life. And it will all be washed out of you by movie's end. Believe me, I know this from personal experience. This movie is almost therapeutic in the way. Because the story is healing our own souls at the same time as it is healing Travis's.
So. What's more to say about Paris, Texas? It's a beautiful movie, one that relies on photography and performances to tell it's story, and a movie that portrays emotions on a master class level. And what do I mean by 'Anti-Romance'? It's not worth explaining here. See the movie, you'll understand.
The Thin Red Line (1998)
A beautiful and haunting symphony...
The Thin Red Line is one of the best, if not THE best, war movies ever made. It tells the story of a group of soldiers before, during, and after the invasion of Guadalcanal in WWII.
Pvt. Witt (James Caviezel) theorizes about death and life in the world of war after he goes AWOL yet another time. Pvt. Bell (Ben Chaplin), homesick and devoted to his wife, philophizes about the war of love inside of him. The relationship between Capt. Staros (Elias Koteas, in one of the best supporting performances ever, in my opinion) and Lt. Col. Tall (Nick Nolte) is examined after Staros refuses to obey Tall's orders in the heat of battle, knowing that it would mean certain death for his squad. Sgt. Welsh (Sean Penn), a weary war veteran tries to hold the team together and focuses on reforming Witt. These are just a few of the dozen of story lines presented in The Thin Red Line. However, if you ask me, there are no real story lines. It is a war seen through the eyes of the soldiers who are facing the horrors of this practice.
This movie is long, it is slow, but it is also meditative. Not boring, but meditative. It is a thorough, beautiful, and shockingly realistic examination of the paradox we call war. Now, this film is not for everyone. It's not for people with short attention spans. It is not for people who need constant action to stay entertained. But those who are meant to see this film, will see some of the best cinematography, direction, and pure realism ever put on screen.
This film stays with you. It is a beautiful and haunting symphony to the art of the human soul, the world of nature, and the pure horror that war holds for ALL the people involved. For, as the tagline reads:
"Every man fights his own war."
A character analysis would be the size of a Harry Potter novel.
My all time favorite movie.
Why? I find myself asking that all the time. And the more I think about how vulgar it is, the more I recognize it's brilliance.
So why is it my favorite movie? Is it because of an entertaining story that compels you from the minute? No, because the movie itself is not supposed to be entertaining. Is it that the movie has a deep profound moral that leaves you thinking? Well, it does have a deep profound moral, but that isn't really the reason.
The reason is because of character. Because the movie made you care about people that you would never really care about.
The movie, in short, is about a vulgar elderly couple who return home drunk from a party and bring the guests that they invited over for a nightcap down to their level. The elderly couple, George and Martha, brilliantly portrayed by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, have an extreme love/hate relationship. Their constant bickering and yelling and loving make them the perfect opposite for Nick and Honey, portrayed by George Segal and Sandy Dennis, who seem to be the ideal American couple. But as the night progresses, and more alcohol is consumed, things seem to change, and not for the better...
Throughout the movie, your either of George's side, or your on Martha's side. I was on George's side in the beginning, but at the end, I found myself on Martha's side. All the characters change, in one way or another, and your perception on them change as they do.
Now, as I said, the movie is all about character. Because even though you think you know these characters, you never really do. All the twists and turns in their personalities lead you down a different path. That explains my summary heading. And it's true. A collective character analysis would probably be the size of a Harry Potter novel.
By the end of the movie, you don't know what's real, what's a lie, and who is going to be the first to crack under the pressure of the other three. All of these things lead to a stunning end, where all is revealed.
This is one the of few perfect movies. The best combination of acting, directing, writing, and moral that I've ever seen. An emotionally draining movie that will make you happy your not George or Martha.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
What an amazing movie...
Quentin Tarantino is a genius. There I said it.
To fully understand the genius of this movie, it takes multiple viewings. But what makes it so genius? Is it the clever non-linear plot? Is it the amazingly imaginative story line or the thought process that went into making the characters so believable? In fact, it's a combination of everything. The ingredients to this movie were simple: combine one of the greatest screenplays of our time with some of the finest acting from big name stars, and sprinkle in amazing direction from the incredible Quentin Tarantino, and you got one of the best and imaginative movies of the 90s. No, scratch that. Not even the 90s, one of the best and imaginative movies of all time.
This movie was a milestone in cinema and though it is for a select crowd, those who are meant to see it will absolutely love it.