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First Cow. 2020. USA. Directed by Kelly Reichardt. Screenplay by Reichardt, Jonathan Raymond. With John Magaro, Orion Lee. Closed captioning available. 122 min.
In early 19th-century Oregon Territory, Cookie (John Magaro), a sensitive outsider in debt to brutish fur traders, and King Lu (Orion Lee), an affable, philosophizing Chinese immigrant, form a tender brotherhood amid rough surroundings. The two dream of a better future, and find a way to finance one with the arrival of the territory’s first cow, surreptitiously turning her milk into sweet treats to sell. Though cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt’s cocoons the viewer in verdant nature, moonlight, and the warmth of loving human connection, the very real terrors of capitalism and colonialism are never too far out of frame. In her seventh feature, Reichardt masterfully threads these complex themes together, creating an intimate world from which one can clearly glimpse the grand tragedy and beauty of the American experiment. Courtesy of A24
Watch a Q&A with filmmaker Kelly Reichardt, screenwriter Jonathan Raymond, and actor John Magaro below
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