Do You See What I See?
I saw the movie Paris, Texas, and it all came in very clear to me. Here is Travis, burned to a crisp by hard living in that Texas wasteland I know, come back from the dead across the moonscape below Big Bend. I see him the very first appearance, draining the last drop from his water bottle, screwing the cap back on before he drops it, and I know.
I go back to recall The Harder They Fall, the scene where Toro is himself dropped on the campus with his illusions and his mouthpiece falling free. While he is counted out, he is on his knees, seeking that mouthpiece across the canvas. You see, it belongs in his mouth.
There was a party that probably never happened which featured an established writer and a wannabe, who bored the author with his own blocks. His brother had died in a boating accident, and he wants to get it all down, but he just can’t, it’s all too complicated. The writer says, "There must be something simple at the center of it. Start with the canoe."
So Travis comes back to life, and his brother finds him, and he goes with his brother, and he takes a credit card and a pickup from the brother together with his own son, who has been living with the brother and his brother’s wife, and he sets out to find his estranged wife, who he left in a burning trailor so many years before. His mission is to remove his son from a very happy existence and place him all quite properly with his mother, who works as a stripper in a Houston peep show and had dumped the kid with her brother-in-law on that account.
It tells of an impulse, not an intelligent decision, like a mouthpiece for a fight that is over before you find it.
Art is important, we are told. You must have art. So I find a book that features the screenplay for Paris, Texas, together with interviews of Wim Wenders the director, Sam Shepard the writer, and all of the stars. And in that volume, among all the voices, in all the definitions and certainties and sad groaning meaningful asides, there is not the slightest support for my own viewing of the work.
This is not the first time it has happened. I saw, for instance, The Misfits, as a study of the first time in my own private history in which the Yin of the woman beats the Yang of the virile hopeless fog of manhood; the gentle outfoxes the wild and violent. There’s my movie, after a youth raised on A Man Gotta Do What a Man Gotta Do in myriads of westerns and war movies. So, again, I find a text of the meta-feature, the making of The Misfits, and I am not too surprised to find the supreme irony of three barroom wranglers out to avoid work under the banner of Freedom – out to kill the one group of animals who in any way by any definition represent the wild and free existence, the mustangs who run the canyons of the Black Rock desert – unregistered by any of the participants.
Nobody knows, nobody sees, but me. Even Marilyn, who as Roslyn brought the whole cult of the crazed killer down, is grieved by her part. That’s what he thinks of me, she said of her departing husband the writer, rather than by logic or reasoning using a tantrum to get my way.
So … what is art worth if you see it like no one else on earth?
I wonder about that sometimes. Don’t even start me on Mulholland Dr.