The world sees the U.S. these days through the prism of ostentatious, explosion-packed superhero and disaster movies. But there was a time when the modest Western, with its vast undeveloped spaces and heroic loners, defined our country abroad. Unexpectedly, the genre struck a universal chord with audiences, and inspired filmmakers from Rome to Tokyo to overlay their culture on its foundation. The series "Non-Western Westerns" provides a terrific survey of offbeat permutations from the '60s and '70s (mostly), with none more curious than French director Luc Moullet's existential deadpan romp, A Girl Is a Gun (Une Aventure de Billy le Kid). It's a true shaggy-dog story, with Billy hooking up with a pretty girl (one Rachel Kesterber) and making for the Mexican border. The awkward, unassuming Jean-Pierre Léaud plays the oh-so-dangerous outlaw as a hippie dropout, with the Nouvelle Vague hero's lack of old-fashioned machismo comically offset by a deep, English-dubbed voice. Moullet's trippy fable, conceived under the influence of Sartre and Jim Morrison, is a loving reminder that all rebellion is individual, absurdist, and probably doomed.
Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays-Sundays, 4 p.m. Starts: May 1. Continues through June 13, 2008