Archive for June 3rd, 2021

by James Clark



For her sagas of crime, the films of Kelly Reichardt dedicate a remarkable wealth of ardor. Such tutelage becomes not only a gift but a confusion, a fertile confusion.

Seemingly of no significance to the zealots, she was the daughter of both parents working as police officers. Could there be a lacuna in that market which makes all the difference? There seems to be in play that the rigors of contemporary life are so beyond coherent management that appalling outrage can coincide with gentle ways and seem a fine validity. Seem. But not, in fact, for a moment. And Reichardt, so West Coast and so donnish, knows very well that that turkey won’t fly, as such. (In another of her films, Certain Women [2016], a construction business owner allows one of her workers to be injured for life, due to careless management. She suckers the victim to throw away, in a pittance, his worker’s compensation rights and, after long and reckless pleading his case, ends up in jail. The owner has a case of insomnia.) As we enter, once again, that precinct of presumptuousness, now namely, First Cow (2020), our work cut out for us becomes the whereabouts of courage. Like the frequent bathos and very rare pathos in Certain Women, we are on the hook to measure what Ingmar Bergman would think of the coterie of the new film. And where our guide today could find her footing.

This astounding film poses many possibilities of entry. I’ve settled upon the treasure of foliage here, for its foundational (and nostalgic) powers, in the form of Oregon Territory in 1820. Our protagonist, namely, Cookie, first appearing in deep forest, unearthing mushrooms in the capacity of providing food for a crew of fur hunters, has been provided by a world of beautiful uplift and a world of deadly violence. At this point, positivity is in ascendence. So concentrated is the growth, that Cookie becomes far from a mundane toiler, and instead part of nature itself. In the murky atmosphere, close-up snippets of his body meld with the forest itself. (more…)

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