I almost felt like like this was cheating, watching a short film instead of a feature for our project. And then I thought, but short films are still films. They're still conceived as whole stories. And, really, to deny the short film in favour of a feature was to do the art a disservice. That's how I'm justifying my pick of the 34 minute Cowboy and the Frenchman tonight.
Truth is, I was so tired after work, I couldn't handle anything longer. This is when I treasure our collection -- need a short film on the double? Got one!
I chose this because the story sounded intriguing. Apparently it's part of a larger project to do with how US filmmakers and storytellers "view the French". This is David Lynch's perverse rendering of an entire culture, and as much as it's suitably and predictably bizarre, it's also rather entertaining. Some dyed in the wool cowpokes spot a mysterious creature falling down a hill and go find it. It's a Frenchman. The group converse, then they sing and dance, then that's about it. Harry Dean Stanton plays the near-death Slim who says words like "goll dang" and "bull-doggin". At first, Slim is a bit scared of the Frenchman, pondering whether or not he's a "goll dang alien spy". A quick search through the man's bag to pull out snails, an Eiffel Tower statue and a breadstick lead Slim to realise this is not an alien, but a French person. Upon discovering this, Slim befriends the man and they share a night of beer and music. During this time, the two (and Slim's ranch hands) share cultures. The Frenchman, for instance, teaches Slim to say "ooh la la" and Slim returns the favour, teaching the Frenchman to say "yippie kai ai aye".
Lynch's absurd view of these intermingling cultures is fascinating and creepy. I hear Werner Herzog also contributed to this series of shorts, and now I'm all about checking that one out.
This I give 2.5 out of 5. The highlight for me in this one was Tracy Walter paying back a loan.
David Lynch is an oddball, this we know. But The Cowboy and the Frenchman is as weird as I think we've ever seen him - and that's saying a lot. It's his first foray into outright comedy, pre-dating On the Air by three or four years, and it's funny enough - at first: Harry Dean Stanton plays a mostly-deaf rancher with Jack Nance and Tracy Walter as his ranch hands. They see someone sneaking down the hill and immediately rope and apprehend him. "Might as well see what's in his case before we shoot him,"
There's no real story up to this point, and there's even less in what follows: a strange montage of French women, a horse and an Elvis impersonator.
Worth it for hardcore Lynch fans, but I'd recommend others stay far, far away.