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Don't Touch the White Woman!/B,C+

Image/1973/110m/Cropped 1.33

      I hesitate to recommend this highly unusual film conceived on a cloud of anarchy by outré Italian director Marco Ferreri. The stylistic flourishes do not make it easy to embrace this wild history lesson. And no, this revisionist view of Custer and Little Big Horn from a foreign point of view does not travel with the ferocity and swiftness of the director's namesake.     
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Custer witnesses summary executions in Paris©Image

    At a meeting of representatives of United States economic interests, it is clear that the Indians present a obstacle to the country's western expansion. A meeting with General Terry is arranged and Terry calls for the enthusiastic talents of George Armstrong Custer to mount a campaign against the Indians. An anthropologist in modern dress keeps popping up and asking questions as an instant reminder that something strange is going on here in Don't Touch the White Woman!. The director himself fills this role, creating another layer of filmmaking license. Soon, it is obvious that although many of the characters are wearing period clothing, the plot is playing out in 1972 Paris. Not too subtle photos of President Richard Nixon show up on walls in the background. But the players keep their focus on 19th century events while the director and writer have other things in mind.
     Don't Touch the White Woman is transparently political in its attack of the United States and the Nixon administration's involvement in Vietnam. The annihilation of the American Indian and the expansionist policies of American colonial ambitions are taken to task by director Ferreri. Though every scene is meticulously composed, Ferreri's style appears improvisational. The camera has a cinema verite quality and the mix of costumed players amidst the modern Parisian setting has quite a startling effect. Though Absurdist in style and overall comic, there are devastating uses of extreme violence that serve to remind audience that they can laugh all they want but the laughter is hollow in the face of the underlying facts of history.
     The important European cast is headed by Marcello Mastroianni in a ridiculous long black wig as Colonel George Armstrong Custer. Mastroianni brings a new meaning to chivalry in his bizarre posturing as Custer. When Custer salutes you with a stamping of his feet it is positively orgasmic. Competing with Mastroianni for outrageous performance bragging rights is Michel Piccoli as a drunk and fey Buffalo Bill. Philippe Noiret is a practical General Terry and Catherine Deneuve serves as the angelic vision of the white woman. Never mind if she beds Custer in a fit of lust.
     There are a number of scenes that suffers from cropping to 1.33 from the what appears to be an original 1.66 composition. Color seems slightly coated by the dusty outdoor sets in the center of a huge Parisian demolition and construction project. The guerilla style of shooting does not produce glossy images and the resulting grain on the DVD suits the material just fine. The mono soundtrack is thin but acceptable. Yellow English subtitles appear on the image. This is a bare bones DVD with a menu offering up only chapter stops .