Thursday, September 14, 2023

A new French short film “Wisteria”

 Brooklyn Film Festival Reviews: Samuel Jacob Attias’ baguette western WISTERIA is a stylish throwback with sly social commentary

Films Gone Wild

By Jonita Davis

August 7, 2023

Wisteria is a cinematic salute to a bygone era, that really needs to stay gone. That’s the best way to describe this film that is both homage to the American spaghetti westerns shot through the 1970s and a parody of same genre. It’s called a “baguette western” because director Samuel Jacob Attias made it in France. Wisteria uses the cinematic stylings of the western to capture some beautiful shots to tell a tragic tale turned into a love story. However, the film also works to remind us of the racism, sexism, and senseless gun violence that glorified within the genre. In many ways, Wisteria serves as a cinematic social commentary on a genre that Americans still haven’t fully reconciled with reality.

The Soundtrack’s Strategic Disconnects

On of the most obvious commentaries in Wisteria is the soundtrack. It’s apparent from the start that the film’s sound is based on the old westerns. However, there are several strategic disconnects that force the viewer to questions what is really happening onscreen. When the farmer is mourning an important loss, one that is vital to the plot of the film, the music is light and slightly cheery. The man is understandably sad but the soundtrack wants us to look at this like he’s a little blue, but life goes on. Cue the chirping birds.

In another scene, the territory’s Marshall is doing some nefarious stalking. We don’t know he’s there until the camera pans away from a potential love scene to the person watching. That’s when “Dixieland” plays—a song that now symbolizes the racist, slave-holding era in the US. It’s essentially the sound of racism and whose presence does it herald—law enforcement. A Marshall who basically admits to the intent to bring genocide to an entire tribe of people over access to a well. “Dixieland” is cheerful, but this man is dark and evil. The disconnect between the cheerful sound and the evil man forces the audience to pull back from the story and examine the contents of the scene. Therein lies the satire.

Cinematic Homage to the Western Style Storytelling

Wisteria is beautifully shot and works as a homage to the style of visual storytelling that we’ve lost since the time of the spaghetti western. The upsweeping camera that pulls back from a closeup to reveal that a struggling farmer is also dealing with a racist Marshall trying to stop the local indigenous tribes from drinking in the farmer’s well. The Marshall has other intentions. And,we see this in the way the camera captures the man’s less than innocent looks as he discusses the tribes. He wants to kill them all and the well is a good place/excuse for starting the genocide.

All of this information is gleaned from the visual cuts between the two speakers. Later, an entire scene full of tension is built from close-up cuts on body parts. The Marshall’s boots as he walks slowly to the house. The farmer’s jumpy fingers moving close to the gun. Wisteria’s hand grabbing her belly as a contraction hits. True to the form, the shots are compiled onto the screen in a layout that tells the audience, “This is a complete mess about to jump off, with all of these elements happening all at once!”

The story told this way forces one to give the screen their full attention. However, the shots are compiled to make it easy to know what to look for.

Cheesy, Weird, and Modern

There are a lot of weird moments and plot elements that leave weird questions to be answered. For example, where did the milk come from? We never see a cow. Later, after the first wife passed, the milk was spoiled, but Wisteria started making the milk, which the farmer called “Wisteria’s own recipe”. Were they drinking and selling breast milk?

Then there was the well. Of all the space that we see, especially in the beginning as the camera pans over the landscape, why is the well the “last stand” for the Marshall? It makes me wonder if he was just lazy or not that bright or both. Also, there is not cover around the well and for miles. People who are being hunted and killed would find a better place for water, as I am sure the indigenous in the area have. The farmer most likely dug the well. The tribes, there long before, would have other options, wouldn’t they?

At the same time, these questions and weird issues add a bit of fun to the film. The audience will enjoy trying to figure out where the milk is coming from or why the well is the Holy Grail of this part of the prairie. Wisteria offers some great modern social commentary in these weird moments as well. In one of the final scenes, a baby cry prompts a ceasefire. It actually seems kind of hokey until you look at the story as a whole and the role that gun violence has played in the farmer’s life. It is simple, but poignant upon further reflection.

At first glance, Wisteria appears to be a simple salute to the western film nostalgia. However,  this baguette western offers a much deeper commentary on the genre itself. While the storytelling style is something to study, the strategic disconnects create opportunities for some very important discourse. If you love the genre or you love to critique it, you will be entertained by Wisteria.

Wisteria – International title


A 2022 U.S.A., French co-production [Vantage Pictures (Los Angeles, Paris)]

Producer: Laurence Le Rolland

Director: Samuel. J. Attias (Samuel Jacob Attias)

Story: Samuel. J. Attias (Samuel Jacob Attias)

Screenplay: Samuel. J. Attias (Samuel Jacob Attias)

Cinematography: Raphaël Bourdin [color]

Music: Max Steiner, Victor Young, Franz Waxman, Ravel, Debussy, Alan Silvestri,

     Miklos Rozsa, Jeff Alexander, Dan Fogelberg

Running time: 57 minutes


Story: In 1870, a farmer whose wife dies in childbirth and who, under the blow of pain, comes to kill an Indian near his well. Remorseful, for the sake of redemption, he will rescue a wounded Indian woman, who has also come to drink at his home, at the same well, with whom he falls in love.



Wisteria – Violette Deblieck

Jacob – Jason Wade

Farmer’s wife – Olivia Sylvestre

Marshal - Michael Flynn

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