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First Cow

“History hasn’t happened yet. But it’s coming.” The latest feature from Kelly Reichardt – one of the best filmmakers at work anywhere in the world today – examines the roots of free trade, capital and capitalism.

At the beginning of the 19th century, fur trappers are not the only ones to venture into the wilds of Oregon; there’s also a taciturn cook, a loner who finds an able entrepreneur and friend in a Chinese immigrant. The two start a small trade in “oily cakes”, which turns out to be a great success in the rough West. The only catch: the raw material they use is acquired illegally.

Reichardt co-wrote the screenplay with regular collaborator Jonathan Raymond, and the film confirms her talent for telling stories of an America filled with promise, far from the big cities. Like a Western, the film pays tribute to characters on the margins of society who must take destiny into their own hands – only here, instead of guns, there’s a spoonful of honey and a pail of milk.

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