on saturday, “Moonflower Killers“,” Martin Scorsese’s harrowing epic about one of America’s favorite pastimes – mass murder – premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and has been screened out of competition. It’s Scorsese’s first film at this event since Nightmare.”After hoursIn 1986, he won Best Director. In this version, he walked the red carpet with the two stars who defined the contrasting halves of his career: Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Adapted from David Grann’s bestselling film of the same title — the screenplay was written by Scorsese and Eric Roth — the film chronicles the murders of several oil-rich members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma during the 1920s. Grann’s book is titled “The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” while the movie focuses primarily on what was happening on the ground in Oklahoma. The name of the young bureau chief, J.J. Edgar ”(2011).
“Moonflower Killers“Harrowing, and at times overwhelmingly sad, a true crime The mystery, the details of which are bone-chilling, make it akin to a horror movie. And while he focuses on a series of murders committed in the 1920s, Scorsese tells, incisively, a larger story about power, Native Americans and the United States. An important part of that story happened in the 1870s, when the US government forced the Osages to leave Kansas and move to the Southwest. Another chapter was written several decades later when oil was discovered on the soil of the Osage in present-day Oklahoma.
When DiCaprio’s Ernest Burkhart arrives by train in the Osage boomtown of Fairfax, oil rigs crowd the bright green plains as far as the eye can see. Still dressed in the faded dough uniform from the recently ended war, Ernest has come to live with his uncle, William Hale (Robert De Niro), along with a host of other relatives, including his brother (Scott Shepherd). Gran, a gentleman with elegant glasses and a pinched smile, wrote such close relations with the local Native American population that he was revered, “as King of the Osage Hills.”
Highly efficient, cameras soaring, and enough history to nail the narrative, Scorsese immerses you in the hustle and bustle of the area, full of fresh money some are spending and others are trying to steal. The Osage owned mining rights to their lands, which contained some of the largest oil deposits in the country, and they leased them out to prospectors. Gran writes that in the early 20th century, everyone on the tribe list began receiving payments. The Osage became fantastically wealthy, and adds that in 1923, “the tribe earned over $30 million, the equivalent today of over $400 million.”
“Killers of the Flower Moon” is structured around Ernest’s relationship with both Hale and A young woman from Osage, Mollie (Lily Gladstone), whom he met while driving cabs for the townspeople. Just like Fairfax, where luxury cars race down the main dirt road amidst screaming people and terrified horses, Ernest, frenzied, quickly jumps out, all wild smiles and gushing enthusiasm. He keeps jumping – it’s as if he’s got a great fortune calling – though his energy changes after he meets Molly. They marry and have children, and find refuge with each other as the dead Osages begin to pile up.
Gladstone and DiCaprio fit convincingly even if their characters vary in emotion, temperament, and physicality. When out and about, this peaceful, reserved woman turns her face into an unemotional mask and wraps a traditional long blanket around her, effectively dousing her body with it. With her beauty, fortitude, and Mona Lisa’s sly smile, Molly exerts great gravitational pull on Ernest and the viewer alike; You are both quickly smitten. DiCaprio would get most of the attention, but without Gladstone, the movie wouldn’t have the same slow-building emotional impact.
Ernest is a fascinating and thorny character, especially in the age of Marvel Manichaeism, and he’s full of contradictions he rarely seems aware of. DiCaprio’s performance is initially marked by Ernest’s eagerness to please Hale — there’s comedy and pathos in his slashing and rambunctious streak — but grows quieter, more inward, and delicately complex as the mystery deepens. It helps that Ernest frowns the first time you see him, an expression that takes on even more significance when you realize DiCaprio mirrors De Niro’s famous gloom, a choice that draws a visual line between the characters and men who were Scorsese’s twin cliques.
I’ll have more to say about “Killers of the Flower Moon” when it opens in US theaters in October.
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