The tagline for the wonderful documentary “Sweetgrass,” the first essential movie of this young year, is “the last ride of the American cowboy.” I suppose the word shepherd, with its pastoral evocations of maidens in pantaloons and lads with flutes, doesn’t have the necessary grit or mythic punch. But the quiet and cantankerous men in this movie, mostly in cowboy hats — one of which is charmingly ornamented with a sheep pin on the crown — are keeping and sometimes losing sheep as surely as Little Bo Peep did. Made by Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, the movie largely involves the enormous effort, along with the unintentional humor and grim realities, involved in driving some 3,000 sensationally noisy sheep (how do they sleep?) up a mountain for summer pasture. The New York Times
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