Impressionistic and offbeat, French filmmaker Claude Lelouch’s romantic drama Another Man, Another Chance is nominally a Western, since most of the story takes place in the American frontier circa the late 1800s, but it’s also an international story with many episodes taking place in France during a time of ferocious class conflicts. Repurposing narrative concepts and themes from Lelouch’s 1966 hit A Man and a Woman—without actually being a remake of the previous film—Another Man, Another Chance tells the parallel stories of two sensitive people whose love affairs end in tragedy.
David (James Caan) is an American veterinarian whose wife, Mary (Jennifer Warren), has grown tired of living in the wilderness, even though David adores the lonesome lifestyle because he relates better to animals than he does to people. Soon after delivering the couple’s first child, Mary is raped and killed by robbers one sad afternoon, while David’s away on business. Meanwhile, in Paris, impulsive young Frenchwoman Jeanne meets a photographer named Francis (Francis Huster), and falls in love. Wishing for adventure and an escape from the rampant poverty in Paris, Francis and Jeanne relocate to America, eventually settling in a town not far from David’s home.
By the time David and Jeanne finally meet at the school attended by their children, Jeanne has suffered a loss of her own, so she has become guarded about romance. However, David is determined to build on their mutual attraction, so the story explores the challenges faced by people who are haunted by memories of loved ones.
Lelouch, who also wrote the picture, uses an idiosyncratic storytelling style. He jumps back and forth in time, so viewers experience the story in the same psychological blur as the characters. This nonlinear approach doesn’t always work—some scenes are confusing—but when it connects, Lelouch expresses subtle nuances of anguish and perception. The filmmaker also employs long, unbroken takes that put viewers right in step with the actions of the characters; for instance, the scene in which David discovers Mary’s fate is a presented as a single tracking shot following Caan through every part of his character’s rambling homestead.
Some of Lelouch’s indulgences are less effective, like a long race scene toward the end of the movie, and one could quibble that casual vignettes of David and Jeanne bonding with their children outlast their usefulness. But since the story takes place in a less hurried time, Lelouch’s leisurely pacing suits the milieu. Also in the film’s favor is the understated acting, with Caan eschewing his standard macho vibe and Bujold affecting a delicate quality that masks formidable resolve. Another Man, Another Chance is far too flawed to qualify as a great film, but it’s consistently heartfelt and thoughtful, in addition to boasting a rich, dust-choked Western atmosphere. (Available as part of the MGM Limited Collection on Amazon.com)
Another Man, Another Chance: GROOVY