REVIEW – Soi Cowboy (2008) and James Wood on the challenge of Generic Innovation

Videovista have my review of Thomas Clay’s second film Soi Cowboy.

I reviewed Clay’s first film The Great Ecstacy of Robert Carmichael (2005) for my old site but while I found the film incoherent at the time, I have since warmed to it significantly as my taste in films has evolved.  In fact, I think it is a bold and distinctive piece of film-making (especially when you bear in mind that the director was in his mid-twenties when he made it).

Soi Cowboy is a much tamer affair.  In fact, it seems to serve primarily as a vehicle for the director to ‘pay his dues’ and prove that he is a ‘good cultural citizen’ who has watched all the greats and assimilated their ideas and techniques.  This strikes me as quite depressing as Robert Carmichael was not the film of a director who needed to prove himself.  It is also sad that art house cinema has reached a point where it can be reduced to a set of techniques and formulae that can be reproduced on demand.  As I suggested in my pieces about La Moustache (2005) and Valhalla Rising (2009), this represents the ossification of an artistic tradition into a genre.

My pieces about Soi Cowboy, Valhalla Rising and La Moustache contain quite a bit of irritation about this process of ossification but then I read something that helped me shed some new light on my own thinking…

Continue reading →