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  Touche pas à la Femme Blanche Stop The Cavalry
Year: 1974
Director: Marco Ferreri
Stars: Marcello Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Ugo Tognazzi, Michel Piccoli, Philippe Noiret, Danny Cowl, Alain Cuny, Franco Fabrizi, Serge Reggiani, Monique Chaumette, Marco Ferreri, Henri Piccoli, Franca Bettoia, Paolo Villaggio, Daniele Dublino
Genre: Western, Comedy, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Three representatives of the American government sit in a meeting concerning the problem, as they see it, with the Native American situation. The men think there are too many of them, that they are dangerous savages and should be subject to a final solution: mass extermination. After consulting with a high-ranking general they decide to bring in Colonel George Armstrong Custer (Marcello Mastroianni) to provide the project with the boost it needs, and when he arrives by locomotive he's all too happy to be part of what they hope will be a genocide. However, Custer is too big for his boots, and will find eventually the Indian population he and his compatriots despise will be more than a match for them....

If you thought Lars von Trier had the monopoly on European Anti-Americanism on film, then think again as director Marco Ferreri was up to the same tricks years before. Touche pas à la Femme Blanche (or Don't Touch the White Woman as it is in English) was made around the end of the war in Vietnam, and that climate informs much of the story, with some barely disguised gloating about the Americans' lack of progress in that area. Written by Ferreri with Rafael Azcona, the presentation is willfully eccentric, with anachronisms abounding: the North American plains being represented by a large building site, for example.

That building site was soon to house a shopping centre, but the demolition of the previous structures provides some spectacle for the story as, for instance, a tribe of Indians are massacred by having a tall chimney collapse on them while they're inside. The film is right behind the natives here, with the whites acting anywhere from ignorantly to outright abominably, and Custer is portrayed (with black hair for some reason) as a vain fool more interested in his appearance than anything else. He falls for Marie-Helene (a red-headed Catherine Deneuve), who is prim but as unthinking as most of the other whites.

Custer has an Indian scout, Mitch (Ugo Tognazzi) who is hated by his fellow natives and abused by his masters, but he has a plan to get revenge when he tells the men of Sitting Bull (Alain Cuny) what Custer will be wearing, and even tries to make him sport a target on his chest, all the better for his execution. As we are well aware of how Custer's battle against Sitting Bull turned out, the overwhelming tone here is that he and his men thoroughly deserved their fate, and the over the top performances leave the film resembling a wild pantomime with political pretentions.

Buffalo Bill (Michel Piccoli) turns up to antagonise Custer, but he's really little better than his rival, and by the time they ride into battle you won't be bothered about them either one way or the other. The final battle itself is just as overplayed as the rest, with exaggerated violence (heads being cut off, ears being bitten through, that sort of thing) to underline the Indians', and by extension Ferreri's, triumph. I suppose it's fine if you share the director's opinions, but really you get the idea early on, making this something of a one-joke comedy. And along with that, it fails to provide a useful commentary on its era, more pleased with finger pointing and raspberry blowing. Music by Philippe Sarde.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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