Based on John Ford’s The Searchers, Thomas Bidegain’s Cowboys is a thoroughly modern, European western of cowboys and Islamists.
Baguette Westernby Mark Wilshin
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
The first feature by Thomas Bidegain, writer of films such as Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet, Rust And Bone and Dheepan as well as La Famille Bélier, Cowboys is an urban western that relocates the story of John Ford’s The Searchers to mainland Europe, as country music fan Alain (François Damiens) goes in search of his daughter with his son Kid (Finnegan Oldfield). Not so much abducted by “injuns” as running off with a local Muslim boy, converting to Islam and maybe turning fundamentalist, Cowboys delivers a carefully thought out vision of the traditional cowboys and indians conflict, as father and son search for their daughter and sister over a period of twenty years – while we witness attacks on the World Trade Center, Madrid and London. And as Alain and Kid are forced to enter the world of Islam, slowly they come to understand it, progressing from drinking tea and smoking hashish to Alain learning Arabic and Kid eventually taking a Muslim wife. Unfortunately however, when Cowboys changes protagonist, Bidegain’s film starts to run out of steam, and Finnegan Oldfield is a rather unemotional replacement for François Damiens, who here in Stetson and denim is at his best. Ending with a wordless reunion between brother and sister, Cowboys eschews (fortunately) the forced return of The Searchers and reveals in a very cine-literate way how far we’ve come since 1956. And with grand vistas of misty rivers and grassy footballing plains, Cowboys shows there’s life in the old western yet.
Les Cowboys is now showing at the London Film Festival