Don’t Touch the White Woman / Touche pas a la femme blanche (1974)

2.0 out of 5

Who could resist a film which stages the Battle of Little Big Horn in modern-day Paris, with Marcello Mastroianni cast as General Custer? Director Marco Ferreri swaps wigwams for blocks of flats, and the climactic battle takes place on the building site that was Les Halles.

Catherine Deneuve ably supplies the love interest, amongst strange scenes of Native American-run sweatshops and a Rupert Murdoch-like Buffalo Bill. Richard Nixon is the President of the USA, and there are many, unsubtle, digs at American foreign policy in Southeast Asia and the troubles in Algeria.

Don’t Touch... came on the wave of revisionist Westerns, exemplified by Leone’s Dollars trilogy, but replaces their gritty visuals with an almost Hollywood sheen, and well-groomed star names. What could have been an enjoyable farce, in the vein of Blazing Saddles, soons settles into a smug, pseudo-intellectual ordeal.

The film’s greatest weakness is the fact that the hectoring tone was preaching to the converted; the war in Vietnam was in its death-throes, and public opinion had already turned against it.

Those wishing for more honest accounts of the wars in Algeria and Vietnam are directed to Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers and Coppolla’s Apocalypse Now, neither of which need gimmicks to prove a point.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics