This breathtaking chronicle follows an ever-surprising group of modern-day cowboys as they lead an enormous herd of sheep up and then down the slopes of the Beartooth Mountains in Montana on their way to market. Call it an abstract Western or the last round-up.
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The filmmakers have created a documentary that captures a way of life completely foreign to me, but one that was nonetheless riveting and absorbing. I loved the shot of the flock trotting through town.
Some of the pan and zoom in shots were amazing, like moving abstract paintings. The field recordings by Ernst Karel were beautiful. Being in the midst of the sheep herd with the droning bleating and repetitive flow of the bodies was hypnotic. Old John saying "How can a dog like me when people don't". Someone replies "Huh?" and John says "I don't know what I said. Just talking."
Maybe just 3.5 , who knows - I'm the target demo for this. Humans become characters about 30-50 minutes into the movie - our introduction is concerned with the noble sheep, the noises they make. Then it turns toward an anthropology, and ethnography, concerning the symbiotic relation between sheep, dog, horse, and man. Then, a final rite, a brief justification for why we may record this, or record things at all.
Beautifully documents "the end of a way of life — another wondrous American ritual and tradition, largely lost to the contemporary world." (Mike Willmington, Movie City News) Though I wouldn't call it boring, don't watch if you're sleepy otherwise, well, you know what the old wives say about counting sheep.
This is like slipping into a pastoral dream. The wind. The constant braying of sheep. The idle bits of conversation between the mostly stoic herders. The crack of guns at hungry bears in the middle of the night. That’s all the soundtrack offers. In its execution and honesty it’s literally on a par with the Maysles Grey Gardens. A true document, artfully done yet completely free of artifice.