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Sam Shepard as Film-maker: The Place and Significance of Paris, Texas in His Oeuvre

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2019, 32(2), pp.179-212
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama
  • Published : August 31, 2019

Yi, Jungjin 1

1한신대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper argues that Paris, Texas, although officially considered a film by Wim Wenders, takes a crucial place in the later development of Sam Shepard’s playwriting after the enormous critical and popular success of the so-called Family Trilogy. The Family Trilogy, which brought to Shepard the belated recognition outside the avant-garde theater circle including the Pulitzer Prize, are indeed problematic. These closely related works, in short, can be defined as intense male melodrama. These peculiar family dramas can be said to mystify and elevate the bond connecting the male family members as the truer reality they are fated to reach. Soon, Shepard, however, quit playwriting and, instead, began to pursue various collaborative projects including writing the script of Paris, Texas. When he returned to playwriting, the completely changed themes and styles emerged. After first dealing with romantic relation between woman and man through Fool for Love, Shepard surprisingly produced a serious feminist play, A Lie of the Mind. The play features a group of women who succeed in envisioning new ways of life after breaking free from the devastating influence of the male family members. The radical transformations of the female characters are engendered by the critique of the American male mentality tracing back to the most potent national myth; namely, the frontier myth. Paris, Texas anticipates the play in various ways, especially the criticism of male mentality. The movie’s criticism proves quite effective through its realistic depiction of the American landscape, particularly, its desert area. Simply being represented as harshly threatening nature, this mythical male space in Shepardian version of the frontier myth is thoroughly demystified. Also, some realistic stylistic ideas necessary for the critical thematics of A Lie of the Mind seem to be derived from Paris, Texas: an observer-like male character questioning problematic male characters' self-centered, distorted memory and perception; the more authentic and, at the same time, fluid realism full of cinematic impression replacing the more closed, quite expressionistic stage arrangement of the Family Trilogy.

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