“The English” on Canal+, the western series that revisits the genre


Cornelia Locke (Emily Blunt) and Eli Whipp (Chaske Spencer) in Hugo Blick's

Despite the critical and public success of The Honorable Woman (2014), on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then that of Black Earth Rising (2018), on the legal proceedings of the Rwandan genocidaires, the name of Hugo Blick is still relatively unknown in France. A former actor converted to writing and directing, the Englishman is today an important figure in prestigious television across the Channel, as evidenced by the high standing of The English, the serial western that Canal+ broadcasts from March 30.

Inspired by a long youthful stay in Montana, the fifties is part of a resolutely revisionist vein of the genre, as evidenced by the particular care given to the balance of points of view and the complexity of the characters, whether they are good or bad, Western (“The English” here designates immigrants from Europe, in the broad sense) or Amerindians.

By videoconference from his office across the Channel, Hugo Blick refers to James Stewart: “The western is the purest form of cinematic adventure. The larger the space in which the characters evolve, the greater the psychological pressure exerted on themhe explains. And, from a thematic point of view, there is currently a form of individual exhaustion in relation to governments. Most westerns are about the restoration of justice: something goes wrong, the hero will fix it. »

In a way, The English constitutes an authorist response to Yellowstone and its derivatives, which Hugo Blick nevertheless looks at without displeasure. “What Taylor Sheridan does in the playoffs Yellowstone, 1883 And 1923, it’s looking at the cost of immigration, the price of being the first to set foot somewhere. It is something that is celebrated and respected, but before the creation of the United States, this space was under the responsibility of peoples that we have eradicated and forgotten, including in westerns. » He wanted to celebrate the genre as much as to question it.

Hugo Blick: “The western is the purest form of cinematic adventure”

To do this, Hugo Blick made a woman and an Amerindian the heroes of the series. Cornelia Locke, a character written for her compatriot Emily Blunt, is a bourgeois who came from the Old Continent in 1890 to avenge the death of her son, the circumstances of which are unknown at first. On her journey, she crosses paths with Eli Whipp, a scout of Pawnee origin who has just left the army to go to Nebraska and claim the lands that the government has promised him.

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