Film director finds inspiration out West

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Film director finds inspiration out West

Post by onlyguy on Fri Sep 11, 2015 8:32 pm

Filmmakers are liars. "You're always manipulating," said Wim
Wenders, a German-born director and
photographer. "Even in documentaries." Photography, on the other hand, has "a
link to truth and reality. ... A negative is
something holy," he said. "I've learned to dissociate the two
professions." Yet Wenders' two careers merged in his
1984 masterwork "Paris, Texas." The film
winds through the small towns and
desolate interstate between Texas and
California, places he had never visited
before. But the mythology of the area had
always fascinated him. He was weaned
on cowboy movies and the American Old
West novels of Karl May. Before production, Wenders said he
spent "three months zigzagging the
American West, taking thousands of
pictures." He was struck by the light and how it
made every color "simple, primary, and
brilliant." No color correction required. "You think that this blue only exists in
photographs, but it exists there, and it's
real," he said. "And there's always these
little white clouds there, as if they're
painted into it. But they're for real." Wenders, traveling alone and focusing
his lens mostly on abandoned places,
developed an intimacy with the West. "There's something about road trips. ...
To be on the road," he said, "is a state of
grace. ... Your perception is more acute." The West that Wenders discovered was
vast, desolate and mysterious. His
photographs read as though they're from
any post-war decade. This is flyover
country, filled with forgotten places. From this setting emerges Travis
Henderson, the catatonic main character
of "Paris, Texas" found wandering the
desert in the film's first scene. Travis
seems like a part of the environment's
natural fauna, a character as impenetrable as his surroundings. The enigma surrounding his past -- and
future -- drives the film's narrative
through many of the dusty roads visited
by Wenders. "Paris, Texas" won the 1984 Palme d'Or,
the Cannes Film Festival's top honor.
Years later, the photographs Wenders
took in advance of the film were
organized into a collection, "Written in
The West." Wenders, a self-proclaimed addict of
"jukebox culture," often focused his lens
on signs and advertisements. "The sign culture in America is really, for
me, one of the most important parts of
American art," he said. "Pop art, Warhol,
they lived on that." The signs he photographed often bring
a sense of irony to his work. "Sometimes you see signs for a
restaurant 400 miles in advance ... and
then you come to the restaurant and it's
just a dinky little place," he said. "But the
signs preparing you for it were
beautiful." Decayed and faded signs, meanwhile,
expose traces of grand ambitions gone
awry -- one of the defining elements of
the mythology surrounding the American
West. An advertisement for the future site of
Western World, which echoes a location
in the film, stands before a vast,
undeveloped lot. Wenders returned to
that sign four times over the years until it
was removed. "A lot of plans collapsed, and hopes
collapsed -- and the American West, the
landscape of the American West, took it
back."
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onlyguy

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