The Cowboy and the Frenchman: French Culture Through the American Eyes of David Lynch (1988)

Some­times, to clear­ly see the cul­ture you come from, you need an out­sider to look at it for you. The French news­pa­per Le Figaro seems to have oper­at­ed on that the­o­ry when, in 1988, they cel­e­brat­ed the tenth anniver­sary of their mag­a­zine sec­tion by com­mis­sion­ing five short films from famous for­eign direc­tors — famous direc­tors for­eign to France, that is. The result­ing series, enti­tled France As Seen By…, com­pris­es Fran­co­cen­tric works by David Lynch, Wern­er Her­zog, Andrzej Wad­j­da, Lui­gi Comenci­ni, and Jean-Luc Godard, who, born in Paris but gen­er­al­ly regard­ed as “Fran­co-Swiss,” pre­sum­ably qual­i­fied as just for­eign enough. You can now watch Lynch’s short, a half-hour bit of inter­na­tion­al slap­stick called The Cow­boy and the French­man, free on Youtube.

Har­ry Dean Stan­ton stars as Slim, a chaps-wear­ing ranch fore­man “almost stone cold deaf on account of two rounds of 30.06 going off a lit­tle too close when he was thir­teen and a half.” Lynch wastes no time putting this old cow­boy of the title into an encounter with the stray French­man of same. When Slim spots him wan­der­ing across the prairie, he sends his crew (which includes Eraser­head star Jack Nance) over to las­so him. From their hap­less cap­tive, dressed in a three-piece suit and a beret, going on in French so sim­ple as not to require trans­la­tion about the Stat­ue of Lib­er­ty, they seize a bas­ket con­tain­ing not only wine, and not only baguettes, but a mod­el of the Eif­fel Tow­er and an end­less sup­ply of escar­got. Lynch finds a way to merge the world of the dream­ing French­man with that of the anachro­nis­tic cow­boy, bring­ing them togeth­er through sur­re­al musi­cal per­for­mances under the glow­ing­ly opti­mistic yet faint­ly sin­is­ter sheen of mid­cen­tu­ry Amer­i­cana. As is his way.

via Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ear­ly David Lynch Short Films

What David Lynch Can Do With a 100-Year-Old Cam­era and 52 Sec­onds of Film

David Lynch Debuts Lady Blue Shang­hai

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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