First Cow, which concerns the new economic opportunities that two men attempt to seize after the first milk cow arrives in the Oregon Territory in the early 1800s, does not sound like a heist movie as a synopsis, but that is what Kelly Reichardt was able to pull off.
The director, famous for “slow cinema” gems like Wendy & Lucy and Certain Women, has made a Western that you’ve never seen before and perhaps the most thoughtful deconstruction of the genre since Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man. John Magaro (Carol, The Big Short) and Orion Lee (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) star as friends who steal milk from the cow of the wealthiest land owner in their small Oregon town (Toby Jones) in order to sell baked goods at the market that the settlers have not tasted since being in London or San Francisco; the demand for their goods makes these Buttermilk Bandits a decent haul of money, but will they earn enough to leave town and make their dreams come true in California? Or will their stealing from the powerful homestead put them in their grave before they ever have the chance to leave?
Reichardt’s film would pair greatly with Parasite, as it’s very much about the early seeds of capitalism and the pecking order of society that’s established before towns even get a bakery of their own. Indeed, Bong Joon-ho himself is a huge fan of the film and Reichardt, herself. We recently had the chance to speak to the director about First Cow, how she adapted a much larger book (The Half-Life) into a smaller film with her co-writer Jonathan Raymond, and just how metaphorical the cow is.
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