Film Scouts Reviews


by Richard Schwartz

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French director Manual Poirer's "Western" has already earned the accolades of many festivalgoers thanks to its charming simplicity and strong character development, two facets noticeably missing from a number of other competition films. Essentially a road picture with some romantic and comedic elements thrown into the mix, "Western" speaks of the unusual friendship between Paco (Sergi Lopez) and Nino (Sacha Buordo), two drifters linked in their common search for love and fulfillment. The men initially meet when hitchhiker Nino steals shoe salesman Paco's automobile, which just happens to contain an entire supply of sneakers. They meet up again and the angry Paco hospitalizes Nino, but he soon feels pangs of sympathy and strikes up a unique friendship. Paco's car has disappeared anyway and his job is lost, so he decides to take up Nino's offer to hit the road.

The film then documents their travels, largely characterized by their attempts to meet eligible women. Yet the real story here is the development of the relationship between Paco and Nino traced through a number of oft-comedic incidents. In the process, Nino ends up with a broken leg and Paco a broken relationship, and the audience subsequently feels a genuine affinity for both characters.

In the film's nicely underscored comedic moments, Poirer regular Lopez plays straight man to Buordo, who recalls a kinky-haired Martin Short. The chemistry is solid and the subtitled dialogue suprisingly sharp. In addition, Bernardo Sandoval's moody flamenco score does a fairly good job at keeping pace with the film's changing tone. Unfortunately, this road picture covers a little too much road as the film's two-hour-and-15 minute running time proves about 20 minutes too long. "Western" loses steam toward the back end as Poirer overextends himself in wrongly assuming the audience will want to sit through a series of somewhat redundant scenes. Despite this problem, the storytelling is unhampered and film still maintains the simplicity that makes it a refreshing "small" picture.

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