No hiatus is too brief for Wim Wenders' pensive airiness -- stalled for funds in the middle of Hammett, his first Hollywood venture, he borrowed cast and crew from fellow art-house roamer Raoul Ruiz for a vagabond mood-piece set on the shores of Portugal. The on-the-fly shooting impulse is pure Roger Corman tribute, appropriately updating Day the World Ended as the sci-fi potboiler Swiss director Patrick Bauchau is trying to complete for his American debut; stock runs out, so everyone has to sit back in the dilapidated resort and wait for the company overseas to send in money. Wenders sees himself in Bauchau's émigré auteur, of course, down to his grim, Nick Ray-like testimony of displacement ("I'm at home nowhere... At no house, no country"), though the movie's less clef venting than deadpan comedy of contrast, languid European hanging-out rubbing against American cut-to-the-chase. "Life is in color, but black and white is more realistic," says crabby cinematographer Sam Fuller, which is as good a reason as any to bring in monochromatic old master Henri Alekan to tenderly watch over Viva's Valiumized reactions or Geoffrey Carey's jittery routine on growing up buck-toothed, cross-eyed and stuttering. Even amid all the proudly mundane wandering, however, Wenders' movie-buffish script with Robert Kramer gets pockmarked with images of dislocated reality, voices in recorders, snapshots, photos fed into grainy computer screens -- the tone is both post-apocalyptic barrenness and cowboy nomadism. Then, for Bauchau it's time to fly to the no less sterile L.A. in search of the shadowy Godot they're all waiting for, namely mogul Allen Garfield (Coppola's actor, standing in for Wenders' own problems with the Zoetrope honcho?), stranded in a mobile home while orchestrating the shift to hard-boiled noir narrative. If the climactic shootout is the director's own symbolic death at the hands of an oppressive artistic system, consider Paris, Texas a rebirth, if not a reconciliation. With Isabelle Weingarten, Rebecca Pauly, Jeffrey Kime, Camilla Mora, Paul Getty, and Francisco Baião. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce