For most of us, childhood is associated with an overwhelming feeling of safety and security. It’s often a mental return to simpler times, before we had to worry about paying for our education, taxes or working for a living. As a result, we tend to deeply value all the fond memories that are directly or indirectly associated with this period – after all, when life gets too complicated, they make for a fantastic escape, albeit a temporary one. Not if they disappear, however!
‘Screen Cowboy’ is centred around a bounty hunter who has to localise and rescue the icons of his childhood before it is too late. The film co-written by Morgan Guering and Nicolas Lemoine, and directed by the former, serves as one big metaphor of a paradigm shift both in life, and in cinematography. The car chase, which encompasses much of the project’s runtime, portrays a race against time – everything points in one way, while the bounty hunter does his utmost to balance the scale in the other direction.
The film is a very smart representation of tradition versus modernity, in the context of art, entertainment, and cinematography specifically. The juxtaposition of two very different kinds of imagery is beautifully done, and perfectly characterises this specific tension that a deep sentiment of nostalgia perpetually evokes. The pressure is relentless, thus punctuating the importance of the task itself. Interpretation of what exactly the task is varies: is it a battle against the external environment, or is it an inner fight, with one’s own self? The added beauty of ‘Screen Cowboy’ is that it can be interpreted in both ways, with equally interesting takeaways in terms of symbolism in each case.
‘Screen Cowboy’ doesn’t really tell a story, but it doesn’t need to, since it achieves something far superior: it resonates with its audience. Whether it’s a favourite moment that has been stored in the brain but not accessed in a long time, a specific sound that always evokes fond memories of childhood or a character that used to fascinate our younger selves, everyone finds themselves at a certain point in a struggle to retain a link with the past and not forget. Ultimately, it is the past that shapes our interpretation of the present, and out hopes for the future. And when there’s a marked divergence between hopes and reality, the bounty hunter must start his mission and save the day.
The short film by Morgan Guering spoke to us on many levels, and represented a fond incursion into the deepest levels of childhood memories and fond thoughts. ‘Screen Cowboy’ will likely mean different things for different people, but in the end, it will remind each and every one of us who we are, where we came from and where we hope to go from now on. For this and not only, the film has ranked second in TMFF’s Film of the Month competition for October 2017.