Saturday, June 22, 2024

“HOLY COW”

THE STORYTotone’s carefree teenage life of drinking and dancing takes a turn when he must provide for his 7-year-old sister. Seeking income, he channels his energy into producing an award-winning comté cheese to claim a competition prize.

THE CASTMaïwene Barthelemy, Clément Favreau & Mathis Bernard

THE TEAMLouise Courvoisier (Director/Writer) & Théo Abadie (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 62 Minutes


Just northeast of Geneva, across the border of francophone entitlement, the Jura mountains welcome tourists and locals to their quaint abode. Largely consumed by large gaps of natural silence, the mountains provide a divine experience for those willing to sublimate themselves to the rich farming practices of the region. Endless vineyards, farms, and bakeries occupy the liminal greenery. Cows are basically the region’s unauthorized mascots — animals emblematic of the area’s customs, traditions, work practices, and history. One of the more significant communes of the region is Pimorin. Their specialty is in fine Comté cheese. Copper vats provide the mixing grounds for the key ingredients. The milk from the neighborly herds coagulates with the added rennet — the enzymes from the solution modulate the consistency of the curds. With patience and diligence, Comté is then excavated from the vats, delicately maintained by the farmers of the land. The cheese ages with the application of a precise yeast solution. The wine ferments alongside the Comté. A perfect appetizer is born!

For rookies in the field, creating Comté cheese isn’t as easy as it looks. For example, in Louise Courvoisier’s “Holy Cow,” a young teenager’s attempts to conceive the perfect wheel of Comté initiates a domino effect of challenges and tribulations. In many regards, her film respectfully pays homage to the trials of the craft. There’s a lot more on the film’s mind than just farming. The cheese is merely a MacGuffin for Courvoisier to dissect her protagonist’s messy desires. Combining both tragedy and teenage angst in her portrait of rural repercussions, ‘Holy Cow’ examines Young Totone’s shattered interiority. Left in a state of disarray after his father’s death, the boy is forcefully placed as the sole caretaker of his family. Mixing intergenerational hedonism and paternalism motifs into her cinematic copper vat, Courvoisier has concocted a satisfying, if occasionally formulaic, dish with her feature debut.

The quotidian framework provides a lush visual canvas for Courvoisier to showcase the beauty of the Jura region. The majority of the film’s naturalism stems from the systemized rituals conducted by the caregivers of the land. In the film’s most harrowing scene, the spectator bears witness to a vivid cow birth. The intensity of the scene perfectly represents Totone’s awakening to adulthood. The beginning of a new life is turbulent & painful. But in time, all calves must heal. At the start of her tale, Courvoisier’s 18-year-old protagonist is a day drinker, a party animal, and a player. The rejection of his isolated family dynamic slowly invades his responsibilities and aspirations. Yet, the film demonstrates the possibility of change in Totone’s humanity.

Totone’s perseverance and flaws define his teenagehood  — a rambunctious spirit whose Alpine origins clash with the customs of his father’s estate. There’s a consistent amount of optimism brimming from the haystacks, keenly brightening Totone’s path of continuous failure. In light of the tragedy, Courvoisier’s emotional punch lies in her vulnerable writing about Totone’s sibling relationship. She allows her characters to gradually reconcile without spoonfed exposition. The act of creating Comté breaks free from Totone’s financial obligations. The act evolves into a playful activity shared between brother and sister—unconditional love blossoms between Totone & his sister Claire.

On the other side of the coin, Courvoisier doesn’t offer anything particularly new to the discussion of toxic masculinity. Portrayals of forceful male aggression and egotistic superiority provide surface-level interrogation towards Totone’s upbringing. Even in its directorial methods, “Holy Cow” presents its material in a straightforward fashion. Outside of its impressive opening oner, the methodology lacks flavor due to the flat variations of lenses and framing. Courvoisier meets both ways in fulfilling a slight, albeit heartfelt, family drama. The subversive resolution offers a more nuanced take on a familiar fable. “Holy Cow” brings forward a passionate new voice in French cinema, away from the domesticated urban spaces that frequently preoccupy the senselessness of Parisian blues.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Courvoisier's optimistic feature debut provides a unique and atmospheric spotlight on farming and other cheesy delights. By blending the traditional customs of the land with a familiar coming-of-age structure, the film offers a refreshing and alleviating tale of reconciliation.

THE BAD - Haphazardly provides a derivative investigation on the roots of toxic masculinity. Courvoisier's direction also aimlessly delivers a surface-level and arguably amateur piece, failing to fully cultivate the richness of her location's land.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 6/10

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Courvoisier's optimistic feature debut provides a unique and atmospheric spotlight on farming and other cheesy delights. By blending the traditional customs of the land with a familiar coming-of-age structure, the film offers a refreshing and alleviating tale of reconciliation.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Haphazardly provides a derivative investigation on the roots of toxic masculinity. Courvoisier's direction also aimlessly delivers a surface-level and arguably amateur piece, failing to fully cultivate the richness of her location's land.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>6/10<br><br>"HOLY COW"