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6 Degrees Entertainment

'First Cow' [Blu-ray Combo Pack]
(Alia Shawkat, John Magaro, Dylan Smith, et al / Blu-ray / PG-13 / (2019) 2020 / LGF)

Overview: Two travelers, on the run from a band of vengeful hunters in the 1820s Northwest, dream of striking it rich — but their tenuous plan to make their fortune on the frontier comes to rely on the secret use of a wealthy businessman’s prized dairy cow.

With their scheme landing somewhere between honest ingenuity and pure grift, renowned filmmaker Kelly Reichardt finds a graceful and deeply moving origin story of America in their unlikely friendship and fragile life at the margins.

Blu-ray Verdict: Based on the 2004 novel "The Half-Life" by Jonathan Raymond ("Night Moves") and adapted by Raymond and Reichardt, 'First Cow' is set on the Oregon frontier sometime in 1820's.

Shot in a boxy 4:3 ratio, similar to the Westerns of the 1950s, the cinematography by Christopher Blauvelt ('Meek's Cutoff') and a haunting score by William Tyler reveals the pristine beauty of the Oregon wilderness as well as the primitive conditions in which most trappers and explorers lived.

At the beginning of the film, a quote from poet William Blake, "The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship" sets the tone as the opening shot introduces us to a barge slowly making its way down the Columbia River, which is where the story takes place.

Telling it like it is, 'First Cow' is a quite stunning tale about friendship and the necessary things we do to make hay.

The central performances are excellent and slow narration with pleasant country music means you really get that 'The Straight Story' and 'Lone Star' underlay, background vibe.

Furthermore, the film's visual style is impressive, but it's story and pacing is what really impressed me here (although its, at times, watching-paint-dry affect, might not be for everyone, of course!)

In truth, the cinematography is yet another aspect I found to be truly excellent. The framing is on point and impressive and it adds a lot to the film's style.

Oh, and the production design and costumes are also really good here too as it honestly looks and "feels" like these characters have just stepped out of the 1820s.

I personally haven't seen any of director Kelly Reichardt's previous works, but after watching this I am more than interested to complete her filmography.

Sure, there are things about the overall tone of the film that bothered me somewhat, but the story, characters, and especially the way the film is shot held my attention throughout.

It's hard to recommend this movie to those who are casual viewers and are simply looking to be entertained though, because I can almost guarantee that you won't be - unless you're a film buff and know what to expect.

While our society is often permeated by the sense that our joy is wearing out and that we are in danger of losing our connection to other human beings, Reichardt's sensitive and haunting film renews our understanding of the deep and abiding companionship we can still share with each other - in moments of beauty and tragedy, in an age that feels closer to the end than the beginning.

Overall, it's a very, very well-made film that fully deserves all the attention it has been lauded, and a much wider audience from here on in, down the years. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:

• "A Place in This World" Featurette

Including a bonus featurette, 'First Cow' will be available September 8th, 2020 on Blu-ray (plus DVD & Digital) for the suggested retail price of $24.99.

Original Trailer