mercoledì 9 dicembre 2015

Les Cowboys

Everybody knows I’m a huge fan of Jacques Audiard’s cinema.
So, when the man who wrote with him movies like Un prophète, De rouille et d’os et Dheepan, French screen-player Thomas Bidegain, decides to write and to direct a movie of his own, of course I’m very interested to see it.
I was about to go to the avant-première of Les Cowboys, scheduled in a Pathé cinema on Monday, November 16, when November 13 happened. And the rest is history.
La sortie of the movie has been postponed of a couple of weeks. I wonder if, with a plot like this, Bidegain thought how fortunate or unfortunate his movie was to get out at this time…

Georges (Finnegan Oldfield) and his dad (François Damiens)
1994, somewhere in Eastern France: Alain Balland and his wife Nicole, together with their daughter Kelly and their son Georges (called the Kid), are a normal family with a passion for country music and “cowboys” life. It is during a local country festival that Kelly, 16 years old, disappears. Her friends tell the family not to worry: she probably is with her boyfriend Ahmed, whom existence Alain and Nicole ignored. At home, in Kelly’s room, they discover some letters written in Arab, finding out to their great surprise that Kelly became a Muslim. It is the beginning of a never ending search: Alain starts to look for his daughter everywhere, driving in France, in Belgium, travelling into the Middle East Countries, very often along with his son. When Alain dies in a car accident, Georges keeps looking for his sister, while the terrorists’ attacks start to shake the world: 9/11, then the bombs in Madrid, then the attacks in London… will his sister be lost for ever?
Alain (F. Damiens)
Bidegain has surely written a story which has now a particular resonance in our lives, but besides its background, I personally think that the subject at the core of this movie, much more than the Muslim thing, is the desperate search of a father for his daughter. 
The determination, the persistence, the ferocious stubbornness of Alain to find Kelly (to the point of ruining what it is left of his family) is particularly disturbing.
It is also true that his need to give a sense to what it’s happening, to put a name on things that were unknown to him just the day before, could reminds us of the progressive awareness of occidental men towards the Muslim world. When the search passes from Alain to his son, things are enormously changed, and Georges experiences a further step, infinitely more complicated and intricate. The war and the economic interests, the international relationships between countries, the birth of a new kind of terrorism. 

L'Americain (John C. Reilly) and Georges (F. Oldfield)
Bidegain has made a strange kind of western, a modern epic tale where a gloomy countryside and the clash of cultures take the place of gold and meadows, filmed in a very sober way but with an Audiard touch! The man, I guess, observed the film-maker at work and he has taken a good lesson from it.
The cast is excellent here, with a very intense François Damiens, the comic Belgian actor who is really amazing in dramatic roles, a very good young promesse of French cinema, Finnegan Oldfield, as his son, and the always great John C. Reilly as the "American".
When the film is over (and the end is one of the most emotional ones I’ve seen lately), the last surprise: a magnificent country version of Smalltown Boy by the Bronsky Beat performed by the film-maker himself (sacré Bidegain!).
And the song lyrics sounded particularly pertinent, I have to say: 

Mother will never understand
Why you had to leave
For the answer you seek
Will never be found at home
The love that you need
Will never be found at home
Run away, Turn away, Run away...

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