First Cow ★★★★

Where Benning and Hutton are often devoid of characters, First Cow (like her previous works) combines a love of landscape with patient character observation, and while exchange of dialog is kept to a minimum, it is nevertheless present and pertinent. “History isn’t here yet,” notes King-Lu, “[…] we can take it on our own terms.” Here sincerity is channeled primarily through the dignifying of house chores. In one arresting sequence we see Cookie tidy up inside their humble cabin, as King-Lu chops wood outside, seen through the window frame (of course there is no actual window). During a bar brawl, Reichardt chooses to focus on a baby who unknowingly waits for the tumult to pass, rather than showing the conflict itself. Time and again, Reichardt’s affinity with the avant-garde lies in showing us what is typically overlooked.

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