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Mustang Mustang

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Director: Marcel Lefebvre, Yves Gélinas
Screenplay: Marcel Lefebvre, Gilles Gauthier
Cast: Willie Lamothe, Claude Blanchard, Albert Millaire, Marcel Sabourin, Luce Guilbeault
Producers: Pierre David
Print Source: Cinémathèque québécoise



A popular French-speaking Western music star, Dick Lachance has been invited to give a series of concerts for the St-Tite country & western festival. He’s eager to see his old friend Johnny, a rodeo champion and the festival’s organizer. Unfortunately, he learns upon his arrival that the latter is dead, trampled to death a year ago by a vicious horse named Mustang. A certain mystery surrounds the incident and several townsfolk become nervous when Lachance seeks to understand the circumstances of his friend’s demise. Accident or foul play? Lachance gets stuck in a dangerous spiral while the city’s Mayor (Claude Blanchard) offers a $5,000 prize to whomever succeeds in mounting the high-strung horse during the big rodeo. The mystery thickens and the heavy latent tension gives way to several acts of violence. Flo, Johnny’s widow’s lover, plans to win the prize but also feels the net closing in on him. What do the Mayor, Johnny’s widow and daughter, Flo, the townsfolk, the Mayor’s supporters and the horse Mustang have in common? What secret links all of them?

The cinema of Quebec includes very few Westerns. MUSTANG is an utter anomaly on our cinematic landscape. In fact, while the film uses the Western template to tell its tale, it is also a detective thriller, sometimes funny, sometimes dramatic, sometimes even surreal (see the dinner scene at the Mayor’s house!) — but always fascinating. It’s a mix of genres that blends cinema verite with the urgency of 70s thrillers. The village is inhabited by colourful and eccentric characters. Willie Lamothe, Albert Millaire, Marcel Sabourin and Luce Guilbeault give performances that recall the work of Gilles Carle from the period (notably LA MORT D’UN BÛCHERON). Especially noteworthy is seeing Willie Lamothe, while indeed taking the role of a C&W musician, play the opposite of his public persona seen weekly by television viewers on Télé-Métropole’s Le Ranch à Willie. Claude Blanchard and Nanette Workman also appear for the first time on screen. Beyond the investigation, the film’s backdrop is a romanticized portrait of Quebec subculture. MUSTANG is the only film directed by Marcel Lefebvre (screenwriter for Denis Héroux’s QUELQUES ARPENTS DE NEIGE). A remarkable cult film, MUSTANG deserves to be seen on the big screen, especially as it has never been released on DVD.

—Marc Lamothe (translated by Guillaume Desbiens)

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