Features and Columns · Movies

Patience and Perspective: The Gentle Editing of ‘First Cow’

Here’s a video essay that breaks down why the genre-defying softness of ‘First Cow’ permeates its edit.
First Cow
By  · Published on January 22nd, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay about the gentle editing of Kelly Reichardt‘s First Cow.

When I hear the phrase “movies by women are so much…softer,” something inside me breaks. My mind starts to race with any number of unabashedly brutal female-directed films: Claire Denis’ Trouble Every Day, Melina Matsoukas’ Queen & Slim, Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s The Mustang…the list goes on and on. The implication that softness is an inalienably (and unavoidably) feminine lens is troublesome. Least of all because it minimizes (or takes for granted) when female directors do actively deploy a gentle touch with purpose.

Few directors (female or otherwise) intentionally wield softness quite like Kelly Reichardt. And her latest film, First Cow, is a sublimely soothing example of her ability to harness compassion for narrative impact. The film is a meditative neo-Western set in the Pacific Northwest frontier. It tells of two friends trying to “make it” in America: Otis “Cookie” Figowitz (John Magaro), an unassuming chef, and King-Lu (Orion Lee), an aspiring farmer on the run for murder.

From William Tyler‘s folksy score to Magaro’s absorbingly quiet lead performance, every ounce of First Cow works towards its gentle gait. And as the video essay below explains, that same temperance is enacted in the edit, which was conducted by Reichardt herself. The essay unpacks what she accomplishes by allowing shots to linger and by frequently focusing our attention on background characters and the periphery. Ultimately, the result is a Western steeped in compassion and context rarely afforded to the genre.

Watch “The Gentle Brilliance of First Cow’s Editing“:

Who made this?

This video essay was created by Virginia-based filmmaker and video editor Thomas Flight. He runs a YouTube channel under the same name. You can follow Thomas Flight and check out his back catalog of video essays on YouTube here. You can follow him on Twitter here.

More Videos Like This


Related Topics: ,

Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.