A lot of people assume that Five Star Films mean that you'd re-watch it constantly. However, a fine film can be something you grow to appreciate over a period of time. How long exactly is up to you. I go back to Paris, Texas every year or so and am in constant awe of it each time I do. 1. Ry Cooder
If you’ve read previous entries to the Five Star Film series, you’ll notice they generally end with a mention to the soundtrack and how great it is or whatever. ‘Phenomenal’ becomes the word of the day and sometimes it’s true.
Here I want to be quite plain and clear with you – Ry Cooder’s slide guitar is the stuff of legend. Here the soundtrack abandons all connotations of being a soundtrack, an ugly, terse word that conjures up images of pseudo pop albums packaged as the musical backing to a movie. It’s the only time I’ve ever bought one and not regretted it a few days later. There are fully fleshed-out songs, not hacked bits of forty seconds length that is the stuff of filler. This is a master at his finest, alone in a studio with his guitar, relying on nothing but the dexterity of his fingers. It marries the desert imagery of the film and takes you to another world when you listen to the album as a stand-alone.
2. Robby Müller
He’s the cinematographer you wish worked on every film. The opening tracking shot of Travis (Harry Dean Stanton) walking through the desert seemingly without purpose is so fucking beautiful it angers me. Angers me because I’m re-watching it on a 24” iMac computer and I’m only getting half of the image. Yes I can see the dry hills and empty sky and can hear the dust crunch under each step but this is what cinema was created for – watching on a big screen. You can’t be truly blown away by sober beauty until you’ve appreciated it on the format it was created for. This isn’t to say you can’t enjoy it at home on the small screen – of course you can, that’s a given – but you just know it would be pure ecstasy when blown to full scale. Because it is.
3. Wim Wenders
I have to be honest here. I’m not proud to admit it but I’m somewhat of a plebeian when it comes to works of Mr Wenders. I’ve only seen this and the first half of Don’t Come Knocking when it screened at a very early hour and I was supposed to be working at the time. But I know an auteur when I see one and that’s not because I’ve read a journalist call him so. There’s no way anyone but a director with complete focus could create an opening so beautiful as this, or a closing as heart-breakingly tender as this. Travis doesn’t say a word for the first thirty minutes and he is so insanely human that words aren’t necessary. Not many filmmakers can achieve that without involving humour or awkwardness for that long. And when he finally speaks? “Paris. Did you ever go to Paris?” There’s not enough metaphors for me to describe the elation in such a line.
4. Paris, Texas
The title itself. The first thing you think of when you hear the name of the city is obviously the city of romance but the addition of a state not renowned for love or subtlety throws you off completely. When I first knew about the film years ago I was sold on the title alone. You have no idea what to expect but you know it is going to be one of those special moments. Like Burrough’s Naked Lunch and the band name Black Sabbath, a wealth of images arise as soon as you hear the name. We’re living in an age that favours simplicity (Gone Baby Gone, Once) or just plain giving away the plot immediately (Snakes On A Plane). It’s not a dealbreaker per se but a little extra thought goes a long, long way.
5. “I knew these people.”
Most people don’t know how to define love. Too often it’s misconstrued with Hollywood endings and 90s Nora Ephron films. I don’t know how to define it either, that I’m sure of, but I know it’s not about an old couple with Alzheimer’s or professed via choreographed dance in the streets.
This scene is arguably the closest celluloid has come to displaying what real love is beyond fleeting intimacy. It involves the very best and very worst of the human condition. The frailty of human relationships is on display and it’s in a peep show. Travis recounts everywhere he went wrong and tries to make it right. I’ll let you watch it and make up your own mind about it.