Thursday, February 3, 2022

#2,703. Another Man, Another Chance (1977) - The Wild West


One of the most unique westerns I’ve come across in some time, writer / director Claude LeLouch’s Another Man, Another Chance opens not in Montana or California, but in 1870’s France!

As the result of its recent war with Prussia, France is in turmoil, its citizens impoverished. After refusing to marry her fiancé (an officer in the French Army), Jeanne (Genevieve Bujoud) falls in love with photographer Francis (Francis Huster), who convinces her to accompany him to America. Arriving in New York, the couple joins a wagon train heading west and eventually settles in a small frontier town.

When Francis is killed, Jeanne, who now must operate their photography business by herself, has little choice but to send their daughter Sarah (Linda Lee Lyons) to a boarding school run by Alice (Susan Tyrell).

It’s during her visits to the boarding school that Jeanne meets veterinarian David Williams (James Caan). Years earlier, David had to abandon his practice when his wife Mary (Jennifer Warren) was raped and murdered (some in town were convinced David himself was the killer).

When he’s not busy inspecting cattle for the railroad, David is visiting his son Simon (Rossie Harris), who also resides at Alice’s boarding school. The moment he meets Jeanne, David falls instantly in love with her, and goes so far as to enter a horse race to impress the pretty widow. But will Jeanne, who is still reeling from Francis’ death, ever return David’s love, or will she choose to remain alone the rest of her days?

Along with its unique opening in France, director LeLouch brings a singular cinematic style to Another Man, Another Chance by way of long, uninterrupted takes. The sequence where David returns home and searches for Mary, only to discover her half-naked corpse out back, is heartbreaking, made doubly so because we follow behind him the entire time, and already know what it is he'll find (we witnessed the rape - carried out by a trio of bandits - a scene or two earlier).

In addition, LeLouch toys with the timeline throughout Another Man, Another Chance, occasionally returning to the past to define his characters’ current state of mind. We know Francis is dead well before we actually see the scene where he is gunned down, and the fact that Jeanne was there to witness his murder might explain why she's reluctant to fall in love again.

Though Caan occasionally hams it up (at times he seems uncomfortable with the long takes), Bujoud is strong as the self-reliant Jeanne. The supporting cast, which also features (albeit briefly) Richard Farnsworth as a stage coach driver, Rance Howard as a Wagonmaster, and Michael Berryman as one of the bandits who murders David’s wife, is, for the most part, quite good.

A new and refreshing take on the American West as seen through the eyes of a French filmmaker, Another Man, Another Chance is a movie you won’t want to miss!
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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