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Wednesday, November 18, 1998

Western

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 1998 at 12:00 AM

Writer-director Manuel Poirier's Western isn't a western but an amiable combination of road movie and buddy movie, its perambulating pair wandering around Brittany, which is on the western coast of France. This character comedy, laid-back and low-keyed, has a slight narrative momentum nudged along by the antic behavior of its two stars.

Paco (Sergi Lopez) is a Spanish traveling shoe salesman who one day picks up a seemingly innocuous hitchhiker, a Russian émigré called Nino (Sacho Bourdo). Nino manages to steal Paco's car, which contains his precious supply of shoes, leaving him stranded and, after his employer finds out about his careless loss, jobless. Later he runs into Nino, who has somehow lost the shoe-packed car, and pummels him senseless. Feeling remorseful, he visits the battered thief in the hospital. A friendship, based on shared hard luck, blooms.

The two make for a classic odd couple. Paco is suave in a slightly sullen way and practically has to beat the women off with a stick, while the diminutive and wiry Nino is luckless in love -- small wonder, as he radiates the non-aphrodisiacal qualities of anxiety and dread. Paco has even managed to begin a serious affair between the time of the car theft and his violent reunion with Nino. It's an affair that has reached a crisis point just around the time Paco and Nino begin to bond, so they decide to spend a few weeks roaming the countryside, the former in an agreed temporary separation from his lover, the latter because he has nothing better to do.

The movie has a rambling, off-the-cuff feel, typified by the fact that the duo never travel more than a few miles without deciding to backtrack for some reason. Their journey turns into a quest to find a woman for the hapless Nino and the tone gently seesaws between the comic and the poignant, leisurely winding its way to an ironic conclusion. It's pleasant, warmhearted and light as a soufflé.

Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for Metro Times. E-mail him at letters@metrotimes.com.

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