On Saturday, “Colors of the Flower Moon,” Martin Scorsese’s harrowing epic about America’s favorite pastime — mass murder — premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, screening out of competition. It is Scorsese’s first film since his 1986 horror screwball “After Hours,” which earned him the Best Director award. For this edition, she walked the red carpet alongside two stars who defined opposite phases of her career: Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Adapted from David Grann’s nonfiction best seller of the same title — the screenplay was written by Scorsese and Eric Roth — the film recounts the murders of several oil-rich members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma during the 1920s. The subtitle of Grann’s book is “The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI”, while the film focuses primarily on what was happening on the ground in Oklahoma. Youth Bureau Chief, J. Edgar Hoover’s name comes up, but it pretty much reveals the future of the agency, its authority, scandals, and at that point DiCaprio plays Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar ”(2011).
“Killers of the Flower Moon” is shocking, at times crushing, a true-crime The mystery is that in its bone-chilling details it can feel closer to a horror movie. And while it focuses on a series of murders committed in the 1920s, Scorsese is also, emphatically, telling a larger story about power, Native Americans, and the United States of America. An important part of that story took place in the 1870s, when the US government forced the Osage to leave Kansas and move to the Southwest. Another chapter was written several decades later when oil was discovered on Osage lands in present-day Oklahoma.
When DiCaprio’s Ernest Burkhart arrives by train in the Osage boomtown of Fairfax, oil derricks crowd the bright green fields as far as the eye can see. Still wearing his dun-colored Doughboy uniform from the recently ended war, Ernest has come to stay with his uncle William Hale (Robert DeNiro), along with other relatives, including his brother (Scott Shepherd). As the king of the Osage Hills, writes Grann, “a cattleman with owl glasses and a pinched smile, the real Hale nurtured such close ties with the local Native American population that he was revered.”
With crisp efficiency, flying cameras and enough history to ground the narrative, Scorsese immerses you in the turmoil of a sector awash with new money that some are spending and others trying to steal. are doing. The Osage owned the mineral rights to their land, which contained some of the largest oil reserves in the country, and leased it to prospectors. In the early 20th century, Gran writes, each person on the tribal roll began to receive payment. The Osage became fantastically wealthy, and in 1923, he says, “the tribe took in over $30 million, the equivalent of more than $400 million today.”
“Assassins of the Flower Moon” is organized around Ernest’s relationship with both Hale and A young Osage woman, Mollie (Lily Gladstone), whom he meets while driving a taxi to nearby townspeople. Like Fairfax, where luxury autos race down a dirt main street amid scruffy people and scared horses, Ernest soon becomes frantic, all wild smiles and enthusiasm. He keeps bouncing – it seems like he’s hit a high on riches – though his energy changes once he meets Mollie. They marry and have children, finding refuge with each other as the Osage dead begin to pile up.
Gladstone and DiCaprio fit inspiringly, despite their characters’ contrasting vibes, temperaments and physicalities. When she is outside, this quiet, reserved woman turns her face into an expressionless mask and wraps a long traditional blanket around her, effectively covering her body. With her beauty, calmness, and sly Mona Lisa smile, Mollie exerts a great gravitational force on Ernest and the audience alike; The two of you quickly cuddled. DiCaprio will garner most of the attention, but without Gladstone, the film won’t have the slow-building, soul-heavy emotional impact it has.
Ernest is a fascinating, thorny character, especially in the age of Marvel Manichaeism, and he suffers from contradictions of which he is hardly aware. DiCaprio’s performance is initially characterized by Ernest’s eagerness to please Hale—there’s comedy and pathos in his muggings and flop sweats—but becomes quieter, more interior, and delicately complex as the mystery deepens. It’s instructive that Ernest’s brows are raised when you first see him, an expression that takes on greater significance when you realize that DiCaprio is mirroring De Niro’s famous mouth, a choice that reflects both the character’s and those of his character. Draws a line of sight between the men who are Scorsese’s twin Cinematic Loststars.
I’ll have more to say about ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ when it opens in US theaters in October.