I don’t know how I would have responded to this film in 1984 at 11. Or how, for that matter, at 21. In a way, I’m glad I waited to watch it. There’s something to be said for withheld pleasures—I’m happy that there are more Hitchcock films still waiting for me, for instance—but since getting married, I’ve found that movies about marriage move me in ways they didn’t before. Stanton’s monologue describes a chemistry that works until it turns explosive, and it’s easier to understand the tragedy now that I know firsthand how much he’s lost. I first understood what I wanted from marriage when I read Edmund Spenser’s “Epithalamion” in college, in which he writes about marriage being a place of protection from the world, a shelter “from feare of perrill and foule horror free.” (And, reading on, also free of witches and hobgoblins.) I’ve been lucky, blessed even, to get that. But where do you go when the shelter itself becomes a horror? Worse still, what do you do with yourself when the horror is of your own making?


Kurt Cobain named Paris, Texas his favorite movie of all time, and Elliott Smith expressed an admiration for it in an online chat with NME.com. “It's one of the few movies without a bad guy,” Smith wrote. “You don't need a bad guy to create […] tension.” He also mentioned identifying with Stanton’s character. That those two doomed souls would be drawn to Wenders’ film makes all the sense in the world to me. They lived in a way that let them see the life they wanted, but something inside kept them from touching it. They were doomed to drift, but maybe, watching Paris, Texas, maybe they felt some passing, awful comfort in recognizing that someone else knew how they felt.