Twenty years after PARIS, TEXAS, Wim Wenders and screenwriter Sam Shepard reunite, and fans disappointed with the consistency of Wenders' more recent output are sure to love this gentle, surprisingly beautiful tale of a troubled Hollywood cowboy who pulls together a family from the debris of his past. Riding his horse off the Utah set of cheesy western aptly titled "Phantom of the West" in a fit of self-disgust, western wash-up Howard Spence (Shepard, giving a marvelous performance) boards a bus for Elko, Nevada, where is mother (Eva Marie Saint), whom he hasn't seen since leaving for Hollywood more than 30 years earlier, now lives. Dogged by the private detective (Tim Roth) hired by "Phantom"'s producers to drag their star back to Utah Howard hides out in the basement, where his mother has recreated his childhood bedroom and conveniently left our her scrapbook filled with tabloid clippings chronicling all that Howard's been up to since leaving home: drug busts, bar fights, DUI car crashes, allegedly pregnant Playmates. After a night of hellraising in Elko's casinos ends in a jail cell, Howard's mother tells him about the long-ago visit she had from a young woman from Butte, Montana, who claimed he was the father of her son. Howard's stunned: He had no idea he had child. Mom hands Howard the keys his dad's vintage car and, with no set purpose in mind, Howard heads to Montana. He finds Doreen (Jessica Lange, with a new and immobile face), the woman he'd romanced all those years ago while shooting a movie in Butte, exactly where he left her: at the M & M bar and grill, although now she's running of the place. Pointing out the young man performing dark, morose rock tunes at another local bar, Doreen tells him the man on stage is their son, Earl (Gabriel Mann); the whiny young woman on his arm is his girlfriend (Fairuza Balk). In a flash of recognition, Howard can sense in Earl the same kind of emptiness and fear that's driven him much of his life, but Earl wants nothing to do with a guy who couldn't be bothered to stick around long enough to meet his own son. Watching this whole drama unfold is Sky (Sarah Polley), a young woman who recently arrived in Butte toting the ashes of her recently deceased mother. Sky also recognizes something of herself in Howard, and she should: She's Howard's daughter. Once again Wenders' darkly romantic view of the American west dovetails beautifully with Shepard's own interior landscape, in which lost fathers — and in this case, sheltering mothers — loom large as the mesas in the psyches of the their abandoned sons. Beautifully shot in rich colors by Franz Lustig, it's possibly Wenders' most accessible film to date, and among his most emotionally satisfying.