September 26th, 2022
MOVIE: QUANTUM COWBOYS
STARRING: KIOWA GORDON, LILY GLADSTONE, JOHN WAY, DAVID ARQUETTE, FRANK MOSLEY, TRIESTE KELLY DUNN
DIRECTED BY: GEOFF MARSLETT
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
If the mood and production of a Jim Jarmusch film and the philosophical and creative sensibilities of a Richard Linklater piece had smashed into one another the result would be Geoff Marslett’s Quantum Cowboys. It’s a tough movie to sell. It’s rotoscope style animation- mixed with a whole bunch of other animation styles- applied to a western, with an important connection to music, and the mind-bending concept of time, to make a beautiful and thought provoking film. Quantum Cowboys has a big cast, with a variety of personalities, and what it all becomes is a fascinating, and even brilliant new western that colors outside the lines of what the genre has typically offered. Quantum Cowboys is a western for an open minded deep thinker.
There is a narrator by the name of Memory (Patrick Page), a man sitting in a room, or a space, or somewhere in time, surrounded by monitors, and watching people in their various moments. We then see two men- Frank (Kiowa Gordon) and Bruno (John Way), shoveling horse manure in the streets of an Arizona town, as a musician (played by the legendary John Doe) plays music in the village square. The two men split off, with Frank stealing money from an unwatched general store, but his thievery leads to a stray bullet hitting the musician, and his future changes from that moment. The goal of our two heroes becomes getting back in time to save the musician and along the way we meet a woman named Linde (Lily Gladstone), but that is only one timeline, a reality that exists in this moment, but could be different in another place. It’s the elasticity of time, an ever shifting narrative, and a going with the flow that makes Quantum Cowboys a laid back western. It’s also a western that has never been made before.
Right off the bat, the animation styles are many, but the one that audiences will recognize is rotoscope, the format that has been used periodically by Richard Linklater, and most recently in his film Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood. It’s a technique where actors become animated, with a trick of green screens and animation placed over their bodies. Unexpected to many, this technique works well with a western, but what director Geoff Marslett is interested in is changing the typical western narrative, and he greatly achieves that here. It’s a hang-out experience, with a large cast of actors, but mainly focusing on the friendship of Frank and Bruno, with Linde stealing the show- who is easily the coolest cowboy in this galaxy. Along the journey we see a pair of ruthless cowboys named Colfax (David Arquette) and Depew (Frank Mosley) who find a way to mess things up, Anna the Siren (Trieste Kelly Dunn) as a seductive woman in a bar, and Fr. John Kino (Alex Cox) offering his wise words of faith. They all amount to various characters in an unpredictable west.
From a directing standpoint, there is a brilliant voice in Marslett, a former professor of astrophysicist who has co-wrote this complex screenplay with Howe Gelb. The argument will be made about the pace of Quantum Cowboys being pedestrian or dull but it’s important for the audiences to know the kind of movie this is. It’s a movie to experience, to sit back and enjoy the appearance of every new character, a bit of obscure humor, and Lily Gladstone showing off her amazing magnetism whenever she is in frame. If there is justice in the world, Gladstone will be the most sought after actor, especially for her own path of new-age westerns.
As far as movies go, Quantum Cowboys is a wonderful creation, and director Geoff Marslett should bring comfort knowing the future has more artists like him. It’s hard to pin down a narrative like this, where the animation is a mixture of various styles, but it’s an example of how it takes a village of artists to make a piece of cinema. From the acting, the music- which is a central and constant part- the animation, the direction, and the final production. I’m not entirely sure what universe a movie such as Quantum Cowboys comes from, but I certainly want to be a part of it. Afterall, this is the wild wild animated west.
QUANTUM COWBOYS HAD ITS WORLD PREMIERE AT FANTASTIC FEST AND IS STILL LOOKING FOR DISTRIBUTION.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady