[film] The Cowboy and the Frenchman

Well, here’s an odd little film.  Le Figaro decided to celebrate its 10th birthday by inviting a number of directors to make some short films.  The directors included Werner Herzog, Jean-Luc Godard and, for this one, David Lynch.

This is The Cowboy and the Frenchman.  Slim, the foreman on a ranch, is played by Harry Dean Stanton in his first role with David Lynch.  Slim, Pete and Dusty encounter a Frenchman [of all things], on their ranch.  Slim is “is almost stone deaf from two thirty-odd-six rounds which went off a little too close when he was thirteen and a half.”

I don’t know why but people who are deaf or at least hard of hearing seem to feature regularly in Lynch’s films.

Anyway, the cowboys capture the Frenchman and they find him to be suitably bizarre and fascinating.  The Frenchman who is appropriately called Pierre and who wears a beret explains that he met some very friendly people in New York who gave him some multi coloured pills which made poetry come to life and rainbows and small animals appear.  Then everything disappeared and he found himself being followed everywhere by a Native American.

The cowboys then decide to search Pierre’s bag and they discover bottles of red wine, pictures of the Eiffel Tower and Brigitte Bardot, some cheese, a plate of snails and a plate of French Fries  Basically this is a film of contrasting stereotypes;  Pierre with his beret, his thin moustache, his love letters, his poetic reminiscing for the wonders of the USA and his treasures and the cowboys with their ignorance and fondness for shooting birds and snakes, for wrestling cattle and for enjoying life around the campfire.  There are even girls dancing the can-can and singing harmonious Western melodies.

The film is shot in a suitably Lynchian style in which character traits and behaviours and exaggerated to the point of absurdity.  The acting is also suitably and purposefully simple which almost verges on clumsiness and this highlights the absurd and the farcical nature of much of the film.  The cinematography is also wildly and entertainingly amateurish and the music is a stereotypical honky-tonk piece.  This is not a classic by any definition but it is an amusing little diversion for twenty-five minutes and shows David Lynch’s light-hearted side more clearly than any of his more recent movies.

If you would like to carry on your David Lynch and France adventure, then there’s always Silencio, his bar at 142 rue de Montmartre.  Not only does this place look incredible, Molière is supposed to have been buried there, and Zola printed his famous J’Accuse article here too.  The great socialist Jean Jaurès, who has loads of streets named after him across France, was assassinated in the cafe over the road as he tried to head off the actions that took Europe into the First World War.


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