Saturday, October 8, 2016

Blu-ray/DVDebut: Thomas Bidegain's brilliant and bedeviling quest film, LES COWBOYS

I would not be surprised to learn that LES COWBOYS, the gripping and consistently absorbing movie by French writer and now director (this is his first attempt), Thomas Bidegain, has become the best least-seen movie of 2016. It's that good. If you missed, as I did, its brief theatrical run, the film makes its Blu-ray/ DVDebut this coming week. It's a must-see.

The movie is brilliantly conceived and written, and M. Bidegain's direction, even in his first outing, is assured enough to bring the movie home. Its themes range from the generation gap, parental power and its use and misuse to patriarchy, love, coming-of-age, racism and immigration. That's a lot to bite off, but Bidegain, shown at right, chews it all up with relish & elan.

Best of all, he has locked these weighty themes into a story that can easily support them. His movie is never preachy or heavy-handed. It simply flows.

That story concerns a family, above -- dad (François Damiens), mom (Agathe Dronne), older daughter (Iliana Zabeth), younger son (Maxim Driesen as the child version, Finnegan Oldfield as the mature son) -- that falls slowly apart when the daughter suddenly disappears. How/why this happened makes itself plain fairly quickly, and dad begins his long search for the girl.

M. Damiens, above, who began as a comedian, continues to excel as a dramatic actor. He is moment-to-moment truthful and full. When the time comes for him to leave the film, you feel the loss acutely, with an odd mix of relief and sorrow. The rest of the cast is equally well-chosen and assured in their performances.

Comparison has been made of this film to The Searchers, and indeed there is much to compare, and though the time frames and locations are very different. the themes are similar. And so, I think, is the quality and success of each.

Over its just-about-perfect length of 104 minutes, the movie becomes hugely moving, as much for its refusal to provide either the sentimental or something approaching full closure. Instead, it maintains proper distance as well as respect for its characters and their situations that is rare in today's cinema.

I don't want to say more for fear of spoilers of any kind. But do seek this film out. From Cohen Media Group, it arrives on Blu-ray and DVD this coming Tuesday, October 11 -- and eventually, I would hope, on digital streaming.

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