An Outsider's America
There is something strange in the streets of New York in "Leon the Professional", Luc Besson's masterwork from 1994. It's not the golden light, or the odd coupling of an Italian hit man with a 12 year old girl. The subconsciously eerie feeling comes from the empty streets. It's the bomb going off and the silence of the neighbours. That normally teeming, bustling city is suddenly vast and devoid of people and traffic.
New York is the city that never sleeps, frenetic with the energy of millions. But New York is part of America, and this the fact that changes everything. Luc Besson is looking at America from across the Atlantic, through the mists of a dream. A place that is new and full of hope, full of space and chance. An outsiders America.
The same ideal can be seen in Paris, Texas, Wim Wenders sweeping 1984 movie set in the wild west. Rarely is there anyone in the background, as Harry Dean Stanton walks through deserts and city streets. Even when Hunter, the boy, waits in his Houston hotel room, the room is a boy floating in the sky, with an abstract city skyline sparkling on the other side of the glass.
The contradiction of the title sends you automatically into a kind of fantastical ideal of each, and is mirrored in the coupling of Wim Wenders and American playwright Sam Shepard. The shots are long and flowing, and the music by Ry Cooder emphasizes the emptiness.
Coming from Europe, America is a vast and exciting country. But it's precisely this outside perspective that gives these two films their lonely atmospheres. It's a place where anything can happen, an exotic land. And let's not forget that both of these films have amazing style...