REVIEW / FILM OPINION – After the drama “Certain Women” centered on the fate of four women, Kelly Reichardt offers with “First Cow” a plunge into nature through a man endangered by industrialization.
A sensitive observation of the world
In 2016, three years later Night Moves, Kelly Reichardt was once again put forward at the Deauville festival with Some women. While in competition, the film received a rather cold reception from festival-goers who, for the most part, are rarely very receptive to a cinema that is too intimate and contemplative. We remember that, the following year, it is A Ghost Story who had left more than one on the floor. Fortunately, for this one, the critics as the jury were not mistaken there – the film leaving with the Prize of the jury, the Prize of the international criticism and the Kiehl’s Prize of the Revelation. Rebelote therefore in 2020 for the Deauvillois with this time First Cow which allowed Kelly Reichardt to be on the American Film Festival program again.
The film opens with a young woman who discovers bones in a forest. If we imagine the worst (a murder?), Kelly Reichardt doesn’t plan to tell a gruesome story. The remains of two human bodies have been unearthed, and the filmmaker intends to tell us their story. So, in a transition of great finesse we are returning to the past, to the time trapper expeditions to America. We discover Figowitz, nicknamed Cookie because of his role within a small team of trappers. He is the one responsible for picking and providing a minimum of rations. But obviously, he would be content to observe nature.
First Cow, the atypical western
By this character Kelly Reichardt offers a striking opposition between the desire for a still wild world, and the modernization that is taking place. This other aspect of the film is notably symbolized by a Chinese man met by Cookie. The latter, although prosecuted for murder, gains Cookie’s trust. The two then form a friendship, going to live together in a cabin remote from the rest of the population. From then on their daily life is similar to the retirement of Henry David Thoreau described in Walden or Life in the Woods. First Cow pursues the same reflection on nature and the economy, human needs and desires. Cookie would have been content to live like this. But his friend pushes him to steal a cow’s milk to produce some cakes. First for their simple pleasure, then to sell them. We then witness the creation of a market, of supply and demand, which will not be able to last given the theft necessary for manufacturing.
Kelly Reichardt therefore offers with First Cow an atypical western, minimalist, and from which she seeks to raise questions about human nature. It is finally a look at the society, capitalism and industrialization that is taking place, while reflecting on the closest human relationships. Because if this friendship is beneficial to Cookie, it will also cause his loss. A bad for a good ? Probably if we are to believe the last shot so peaceful, of a peace finally found in the heart of nature.
First Cow by Kelly Reichardt, released on 20 October 2021. Above the trailer. Find all our trailers here.