Archive for the ‘Les Cowboys (2016)’ Category

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Distributor: Cohen Media Group

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 104 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 French, English, Arabic, Flemish, and Pashto DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio: 5.1 French, English, Arabic, Flemish, and Pashto Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 2.35:1

Notes: This title is also available on DVD.

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“The screenwriter Laurent Abitbol was actually the first to tell me about the French country‐western festivals. He gave me a great book of photos by Yann Gross on the country-western communities of the Rhone Valley entitled ‘Horizonville.’ Laurent suggested revisiting the theme from classic westerns like The Serchers in this context.” -Thomas Bidegain (Press Book)

Thomas Bidegain’s Les Cowboys takes a simple story premise into interesting territory as it tells the story of Alain, a central figure of his prairie community in the east of France. When his 16 year-old daughter mysteriously disappears, Alain embarks on a relentless search for his daughter, even though it costs him everything and takes him to some far-off places—dark and unsettling places His sole support is Kid, who sacrifices his youth to accompany his father on this seemingly endless quest. Bidegain utilizes the classic tropes of the western genre to tell this decidedly modern story.

“…When I was a boy I’d watch westerns on television and my older brother would say, ‘Just imagine the Indians are Basques.’ That’s the construct for one of the main ideas of the film; since the members of the French country‐western community take themselves to be cowboys, they imagine the Arabs are Indians. With that in mind, we were able to borrow the narrative codes of the Western. For instance, it was clear to us that once he gets to Charleville, the father is in Comanche territory. Likewise, when he and his son are in Antwerp and silhouettes follow them on the rooftops, it just has to be an Indian ambush. Much later, in Pakistan, the son will smoke a peace pipe with the Taliban. Keeping a well‐defined genre like the Western in mind gave me the framework for my first feature, lighting the way a bit and guiding me in my directorial approach.” -Thomas Bidegain (Press Book)

Considering the content of the film, it shouldn’t surprise readers to discover that the film manages to feel topical while recalling the moody classics that were made generations ago. This is solid cinema that takes the trouble to create complex if understated characters in visual terms. The film has been labeled and marketed as a remake of The Searchers, but this is actually quite misleading. It is a unique and original take on a similar years-long search that asks interesting questions—not about the cultural and political climate of the film’s universe, but the various aspects of humanity contained therein. Personally, I think references that compare the film to John Ford’s classic were unwise. These comparisons have prompted critics to greet the film with trepidation. Many immediately polished their poison pens and attacked the film because Bidegain’s film doesn’t meet with their expectations when they should be congratulating the director for spinning the material into something that feels wholly original.

Having said this, there are long stretches when the film loses momentum and this drive towards the less than satisfying climax is sometimes a bit clunky. This is really too bad, because the stronger elements suggest what might have been. Les Cowboys is certainly worth watching, but a rental would probably suffice for most viewers.

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The Presentation:

3 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray and DVD discs are protected by the standard Blu-ray case with film related graphics framed by the Cohen Media Group’s “C” logo. Oddly, the film’s original American one sheet artwork isn’t utilized here as it is in many of Cohen’s other home video releases. Inside the case is a small booklet that features a few photographs, chapters, and cast credits.

The animated menus utilize footage from the film with music from the film’s score.

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Cohen’s 1080P image transfer is as good as one would expect from a Blu-ray release of a contemporary film. Color is consistently accurate and there is really an impressive amount of detail throughout the length of the film. Contrast also seems to be well rendered with rich blacks that don’t seem to crush detail. One might take issue with the way the lenses interpreted the occasional flares (this sometimes caused vertical lines to form), but this is a production anomaly and not an issue with this solid transfer.

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The included DTS-HD Master Audio mix is also solid if not overwhelmingly brilliant. It manages to adequately support the image and absorbs the audience into the soundscape without ever making itself known. There are moments when one strains to clearly hear some of the scenes spoken in English, but it seems unfair to blame the sound mix. It is difficult to determine whether the dialogue is perfectly mixed, because accents sometimes get in one’s way. However, ambience, sound effects, and music are decently placed.

[Note: For some inexplicable reason, the disc’s default is set to the inferior Dolby Digital track.]

Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

The Making of Les Cowboys – (HD) – (34:26)

Fans of the film will be happy to hear that this disc boasts a legitimate “making of” documentary that rises above the usual EPK tripe that is usually included on Blu-rays. While the included cast and crew interviews commentary rarely go beyond vague statements about the characters and story, the bulk of material consists of legitimate fly-on-the-wall “behind the scenes” footage. One can see scenes being rehearsed and shot and eves drop on Bidegain directing his actors.

Theatrical Trailer – (HD) – (02:06)

The film’s American theatrical trailer is also included and features advanced critical praise for the film while showcasing some of the film’s more dynamic imagery.

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Final Words:

This is a nice if imperfect film debut for Thomas Bidegain, and those who wish to indulge will find that this Blu-ray release offers a solid transfer of the film.

Review by: Devon Powell