At the Crossroads between Paris, Texas and the Buena Vista Social Club, Havana: Wim Wenders and Ry Cooder as Collaborators

Stephen Gregory


I take the image of the crossroads first as a way of elucidating the approach Wim Wenders takes to making films and Ry Cooder to making music, and to the implicit politics that can be derived from their practice. I then look at Paris, Texas as a crossroads film to examine how the thematic and formal properties of the film can throw light on the nature of Cooder’s and Wenders’s collaboration on it. This is then used as a base from which to launch an attempt to demolish once and for all the widely held view that Buena Vista Social Club was an example of cultural imperialism.

Full Text:



Bromley, R. 1995, 'Traversing Identity: Home Movies and Road Movies in Paris, Texas, ' Angelaki, vol. 2, no.1, 101-108.

Bromley, R. 2001, From Alice to Buena Vista. The Films of Wim Wenders, Praeger, Westport.

Carveth, D.L. 1997, 'The Borderline Dilemma in Paris, Texas: Psychoanalytic Approaches to Sam Shepard, ' PsyArt [internet journal], <> (accessed June 2006).

Catfish 2002, The Roots of Ry Cooder, Catfish CD No. KATCD216N.

Chanan, M. 1999, 'Play It Again, or, Old-Time Cuban Music on the Screen, ' New Left Review, no. 238, 150-156.

Clum, J.M. 2002, 'The Classic Western and Sam Shepard's Family Sagas, ' in M. Roudan (ed), The Cambridge Companion to Sam Shepard, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 171-188.

Cooder, R. 1970, Ry Cooder, Warner Archives CD no. 7599-27510-2.

Cooder, R. 1985, Paris, Texas, Warner Brothers CD no. 25270-2.

Cooder, R. 2001, Paris, Texas, Warner Brothers CD no. 9362480892.

Cooder, R. 2005, Chvez Ravine, Nonesuch CD No. 7559796772.

Cook, R.F. 1997, 'Postmodern Culture and Film Narrative: Paris, Texas and Beyond, ' in R. F. Cook & G. Germnden (eds), The Cinema of Wim Wenders, Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 121-135.

Dawson, J. 1976, 'Interview with Wim Wenders, ' in J. Dawson, Wim Wenders, trans. C. Wartenberg, Zoetrope, New York, 4-24.

de la Campa, R. 2003, 'Globalizacin y nostalgia: Buena Vista Social Club, ' in H. Herlinghauss & M. Mora-a (eds), Fronteras de la modernidad en Amrica Latina, Instituto Internacional de Literatura Iberoamericana, Pittsburgh, 143-156.

Denzin, N. 1991, Images of Postmodern Society: Social Theory and Contemporary Cinema, Sage, London, 137-148.

Drieckmann, K. 1984-85, 'Wim Wenders: An Interview, ' Film Quarterly, vol. 38, no. 2, 2-7.

Fairley, J. 2004, 'Ay Dios, Amprame" (O God, Protect Me): Music in Cuba during the 1990s, the Special Period, ' in K. Dawe (ed.), Island Musics, Berg, Oxford/New York, 77-97."

Falcon, R. 1999, 'The Heavens Over Havana' [interview with Wim Wenders], Sight and Sound, vol. 9, no. 10 (October), 24-6.

Fernndez, R.A. 2006, From Afro-Cuban Rhythms to Latin Jazz, California University Press, Berkeley.

Fishell, S. 1980, 'Ry Cooder: Ethnic Roots, Stylistic Innovations, ' Guitar Player, vol. 14, no. 3 (March), 58-88.

Fleder, R. 1971, 'It Comes from Delta Music Somehow, ' Sing Out, vol. 20, no. 6, 1-6.

Forte, D. 1988, 'Ry Cooder: In search of the Big Note, ' Guitar Player, vol. 22, no. 3 (1988), 32-48.

Geist, K. 1988, The Cinema of Wim Wenders. From Paris, France to Paris, Texas, UMI Research Press, Ann Arbor, 111-125.

Godfried, E. 2000, 'Buena Vista Social Club: Critics, Self-Criticism and the Survival of Cuban Son, ' online at (accessed July 2006).

Greenberg, A. 1994, Love in Vain: A Vision of Robert Johnson, Da Capo, New York.

Guralnick, P. 1998, Searching for Robert Johnson, Plume, New York.

Hernndez, T.K. 2002, 'The Buena Vista Social Club: The Racial Politics of Nostalgia, ' in M. Habell-Palln. & M. Romero (eds), Latino/a Popular Culture, New York University Press, New York, 61-- 72.

Irwin, M. 1991, 'Romancing the American Desert (A Second Look), ' Denver Quarterly, vol. 26, no. 2, 96-101.

Johnson, B. W. 1998, Dark Was the Night, Columbia Legacy CD no. 65516.

Kadish, D.Y. 1986, 'Crimes of Domestic Violence in Paris, Texas, ' in D. Radcliffe-Umstead (ed.), Crimes in Motion Pictures, Kent State University Press, Kent, OH, 116-124.

Kolker, R.P. & Beicken, P. 1993, The Films of Wim Wenders, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Lack, R. 1997, Twenty Four Frames Under: A Buried History of Film Music, Quartet, London.

Lev, P. 1993, The Euro-American Cinema, Texas University Press, Austin, 109-114.

Lomax, A. 1993, The Land Where The Blues Began, Dell, New York.

Luprecht, M. 1992, 'Freud at Paris, Texas: Penetrating the Oedipal Sub-Text, ' Literature Film Quarterly, vol. 20, no. 2, 115-120.

Lyseight, G. 1994, 'Rytimes, ' Straight No Chaser, no. 26 (Spring-Summer), 30-33.

Marcus, G. 1997, Mystery Train, 4th edition, Plume, New York, 19-35 and 184-196.

Maya, R. 2002, Cuban Music, trans. D. & G. Asfar, Latin America Bureau, London.

Melis, D. 2000, 'Buena Vista Social Club' [review], Chasqui Revista de Literatura Latinoamericana, vol. 29, no. 1, 153-156.

Metting, F. 2001, The Unbroken Circle. Tradition and Innovation in the Music of Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal, Scarecrow Press, Lanham and London.

Miller, D. 1996, 'Ry Cooder: Evocative scores from a master of slide, ' Acoustic Guitar, no. 43, 34-37.

Oakley, G. 1976, The Devil's Music. A History of the Blues, BBC, London.

Obrecht, J. 1993, Blues Guitar: The Men Who Made the Music, 2nd edition, Miller Freeman, San Francisco, 2-19.

Palmer, R. 1982, Deep Blues, Penguin, New York.

Palmer, R. 1995, Rock and Roll: An Unruly History, Harmony Books, New York.

Perna, V.A. 2002, 'Dancing the Crisis, Singing the Past: Musical Dissonances in Cuba during the Perodo Especial, ' Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, vol. 11, no. 2, 213-229.

Rising Sons 1992, Rising Sons, Columbia Legacy CD No. CK 52828.

Romney, J. & Wootton, A. 1995, Celluloid Jukebox: Popular Music and the Movies Since the 1950s, BFI, London.

Rose, D.J. 2002, 'Sam Shepard as Musical Experimenter, ' in M. Roudan (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Sam Shepard, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 227-246.

Rosen, C. 2004, Sam Shepard, Palgrave McMillan, Basingstoke.

Santoro, G. 1986, 'Ry Cooder: Blues and Roots, ' Down Beat, no. 53 (August), 26-28.

Scherman, T. 1985, 'Ry Cooder's Crossroads Blues, ' Rolling Stone, no. 392, November, 38-40.

Scherman, T. 1991, 'The Hellhound's Trail: Following Robert Johnson, Musician, no. 147, 32-48.

Silberman, M. 1995, German Cinema: Texts in Context, Wayne State University Press, Detroit.

Smith, R.C. 1995, 'Open Narrative in Robbe-Grillet's Glissements progressifs du plaisir and Wim Wenders's Paris, Texas, ' Literature Film Quarterly, vol. 23, no. 1, 33-8.

Tobler, J. & Grundy, S. 1984, The Guitar Greats, St. Martins, New York, 109-120.

van Oostrum, D. 1994, 'Wim Wender's Euro-American Construction Site: Paris, Texas or Texas, Paris, ' in R. Chapple (ed.), Social and Political Change in Literature and Film, Florida State University Press, Gainesville, 7-20.

Watt, S. 1987, 'Simulation, Gender and Postmodernism: Sam Shepard and Paris, Texas, ' Perspectives on Contemporary Literature, no. 13, 73-82.

Wenders, W. 1996, The End of Violence, MGM video M207354 and DVD 907791.

Wenders, W. 2001, On Film. Essays and Interviews, Faber, London.

Wenders, W. 2003, The Soul of a Man, Snapper DVD No. SMADVD031.

Wenders, W. & D. 2000, Buena Vista Social Club. The Companion Book to the Film, teNeues, New York.

Williamson, N. 1999, 'Ry Comments, ' Folk Roots, no. 193, 21-27.

Zavarzadeh, M. 1996, 'The Cultural Politics of Intimacy Biology and Ideology: The Natural" Family in Paris, Texas, ' in T. Ginsberg & K. M. Thompson (eds), Perspectives on German Cinema, G.K. Hall, New York, 309-321."



Share this article: