Saturday, March 19, 2011

Science Fiction That Isn't Science Fiction (10)

In the middle of one of my favourite films, Wim Wender's Paris, Texas, the central character, Travis (Harry Dean Stanton), has a strange encounter on a freeway overpass. Travis, who's been missing for four years, has been brought to Los Angeles by his brother Walt after wandering into a bar in the Texas badlands and collapsing. He slowly recovers his memory and is reintroduced to his young son, Hunter, who has been raised by Walt and his wife. When Travis decides that he has to find his estranged wife, he and Hunter leave together on a road trip back to Texas. The encounter happens just before they start off, during one of Travis's long, lonely walks:

It's as if Paris, Texas briefly intersects with another film - an SF disaster epic in which the unheeded warnings of a crazy man turn out to be prophetic. And yet it also fits in with the outsider view of America - the emptiness of its landscapes; the unceasing rush of its roads; the everyday surreality - that's so beautifully captured by Wenders and his cinematographer, Robbie Mueller. In that context, the idea of meeting a raggedy prophet of a science-fictional disaster is no stranger than, say, the shot in which the camera pans to reveal two giant dinosaurs in the parking lot of a truck stop in San Bernadino.


Anonymous Mark Pontin said...

Maybe you've read Denis Johnson's ANGELS (1983), which does the same thing with its American underclass characters' deranged rantings (and imaginings) set against the backdrop of U.S. inner cities and deserts and Greyhound buses

And if you haven't read ANGELS, you should.

March 19, 2011 11:38 pm  

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