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French movie does new take on Western

PARIS, Feb 10 (AFP) – An ambitious attempt by the French to make a Western – that quintessentially American movie genre – is to hit the screens Wednesday with an English-language adaption of a comic book that eschews gunfights for Indian spiritualism.

“Blueberry”, by Dutch-born director Jan Kounen and starring French actor Vincent Cassel, aims to add Gallic polish to a tale of cowboys, Indians, six-shooters, saloons and a haunted gold mine.

But the addition of shamans, liberal doses of hallucinogenic drugs, an off-beat plot and a heavy reliance on computer-generated graphics suggests that the makers made a big detour between Paris and the Wild West.

Film-goers brought up on US classics such as “High Noon”, “Rio Bravo” and just about anything starring Clint Eastwood will also have a bemusing time watching French actors swaggering around in spurs and slurring approximations of American accents.

Started as a celluloid homage to the French comic books of the same name, the project held big promise.

The “Blueberry” series, originally started in 1965 by a Belgian, Jean-Michel Charlier, continues today under the hand of Jean Giraud, a French artist better known under the pseudonym “Moebius” who, among other things, designed Ridley Scott’s “Alien”.

The stories of the enigmatic cowboy, sketched in cinematic fashion, have a strong following in France, where Western movies have long been adopted by cinema-mad generations for their mythological sweep and focus on strong characters.

“In my opinion, Westerns aren’t typically American, they belong to everyone,” said Giraud, who helped develop the film.

Kounen said his vision was to explore “the confrontation of two worlds; one where the Whites turn up and where the Indians live in their native land.”

After a few false starts, including an unsuccessful bid to get US actor Val Kilmer in the starring role of a Hollywood adaption, Kounen and Giraud decided to do it their way, with Kounen in particular delving deeply into Indian shamanism – a spiritual world inhabited by fantastic creatures that is invoked through the use of mind-altering drugs.

Cassel – the husband of Italian star Monica Bellucci – took the lead role, with US actors Michael Madsen of “Reservoir Dogs” fame and Juliette Lewis in supporting roles.

“The fatigue involved constantly having to make an effort to be understood in a foreign language is very different and, at the same time, an incredible form of gymnastics,” said Cassel, who worked hard on his English and on trying to channel vintage Eastwood.

But, in contrast to the US and Italian-made Spaghetti Westerns that inspired the movie, “Blueberry” veers sharply away from tough-guy confrontations and high tension shoot-outs to instead frame the climax in a computer-generated swirl that is more dizzying than gripping.

French audiences pining for a more traditional take on the genre need not look far, though – the trailers accompanying “Blueberry” herald the big-screen action of cowboys shooting it out in Kevin Costner’s new movie, “Open Range”.


                                                              Subject: France news