Directed by Wim Wenders (West Germany/France/UK, 1984, 150 min.). 35mm.

Stanton often remarked that of all the films he acted in, Paris, Texas was his favorite. Though he speaks only a few words during the film’s first act, it may well be the finest performance of his career—and his only lead role until Lucky came out earlier this year. Directed by New German Cinema pioneer Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire) and written by the late Pulitzer Prize-winner Sam Shepard, this profoundly moving character study follows the mysterious, nearly mute drifter Travis (Stanton) as he tries to reconnect with his young son, who has been living with his brother (Dean Stockwell) in Los Angeles, and track down his missing wife (Nastassja Kinski). From this simple premise, Wenders and Shepard produce a powerful statement on codes of masculinity and the myth of the American family, as well as an exquisite visual exploration of a vast, crumbling world of canyons and neon.

Stanton liked to tell the story of how he landed the role, which began with a drunken conversation with his friend Sam Shepard in a bar in Santa Fe. “I was telling him I was sick of the roles I was playing,” Stanton recalled in a 1986 interview. “I told him I wanted to play something of some beauty or sensitivity. I had no inkling he was considering me for the lead in his movie.” A few days later, Shepard called Stanton at his LA home to offer him the part of Travis, “a role that called for the actor to remain largely silent … as a lost, broken soul trying to put his life back together and reunite with his estranged family after having vanished years earlier.” Wenders has divulged in interviews that Stanton sometimes doubted that he had the chops for such a meaty role, but this vulnerability only enhanced his performance.

In the month of December, bring a ticket stub from any December MFA film to the Coolidge Corner Theater for a $3 discount on regularly priced feature films, subject to availability.

Print courtesy of Sundance Film Festival and UCLA Film and Television Archive.

Also screening on December 20 and 21. See all showtimes

Watch the trailer


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