Dir: Kelly Reichardt, US, 2020, 122 min. John Magaro, Orion Lee, Rene Auberjonois, Toby Jones.
New York Film Critics Circle Awards 2020 Winner Best Film.
“Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow stars Evie, a delightful, doe-eyed Jersey, portraying the first cow to be brought to a small fort and settlement in what was then Oregon Territory, circa 1820. The cow is owned by the Chief Factor – basically the head trader, or local bigwig. But she soon becomes part of a plot by two impoverished travelers, who aim to steal her milk under cover of darkness and use it to make the best darn oily cakes west of the Mississippi. Local traders and trappers pay handsomely for these buttery fried doughnuts. Even the Chief Factor falls for them, blissfully unaware of the purloined ingredient. Reichardt lets this story play out at a lovely, lazy pace. We get to know Otis ‘Cookie’ Figowitz and King Lu as they slowly get to know each other… Reichardt, adapting the novel The Half-Life by her frequent collaborator Jonathan Raymond, lets her camera drift and linger. It may pause on King Lu lighting a fire with some smoldering moss, while Cookie chops wood outside. Or take the scene in which they deliver a clafoutis (a kind of flan) to the Chief Factor; after some conversation, all the men go outside to see the cow, leaving two First Nations women to chat quietly in the now-still room. It’s a reminder that a heist needn’t be heavy on action and violence to capture an audience’s attention. Sometimes all it takes is a little flour, sugar, lard, cinnamon and honey. And a cow. One will suffice.” – Chris Knight, The National Post