on July 24, 1998 by Lael Loewenstein
   "Western" is not a western, but rather a road movie set in western France. Owing to its clever script and slightly bittersweet tone, "Western" earned a special jury prize at Cannes. The story of two impossibly opposite men bonding, of love lost and friendship found, takes a number of elements of American road movies and gives them a decidedly French twist.
   A handsome, confident Spaniard named Paco (Sergi Lopez), and a shy, diminutive Russian, Nino (Sacha Bourdo), are each traveling through Brittany in search of love. With nothing in common, a chance encounter brings them together: Nino steals Paco's car. Looking for the unlikely thief, Paco finds love instead, in the form of Marinette (Elisabeth Vitali), a lovely antiques dealer. When she insists they take time apart to discover if their love is solid, a dejected Paco heads for the road again, again by chance encountering Nino--and his car. Despite their differences, they join forces and eventually become close, sharing bizarre meetings with, among others, an angry farmer, a pair of sexually liberated models, and a lusty single mother of eight.
   The road movie is nothing new, as fans of Hope and Crosby know well. But what makes "Western" so uniquely French is its preoccupation with love, emotions, and human psychology. Nonetheless, funny, touching, familiar yet original, "Western" seems like a natural hit for stateside audiences.    Starring Sergi Lopez, Sacha Bourdo and Elisabeth Vitali. Directed by Manuel Poirier. Written by Manuel Poirier and Jean-Francois Goyet. Produced by Maurice Bernart. No stateside distributor set. Comedy. French-language; subtitled. Running time: 136 min. Screened at Cannes. Won a Special Jury Prize.
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