We review legendary director Martin Scorsese’s latest film which came to London Film Festival (LFF – October 4-15), and is in cinemas now; and it was at LFF, where he also did a talk to around 2,000 people; we also look back at Cannes in May, where we covered its world premiere on the red carpet and got a little excited and did he do a little namaste greeting…?
Review – Don’t miss this dark American tale which is likely to have multiple Oscar nominations…
By Suman Bhuchar
‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ by director Martin Scorsese is an epic Western about greed, corruption, erasure and murder.
It was a highlight of the London Film Festival and at three hours & 26 mins, it is an engrossing watch (however, an ‘Indian’ interval would not have gone amiss).
Set in the 1920s, the premise of the film is when oil was discovered on the tribal land of the Osage nation, a lot of white Americans began to gravitate around the wealthy Native Americans with the covetous desire to acquire the head land rights to the oil and thus enjoy the profits.
Suddenly people begin to die, they are just killed with impunity and it is shocking to learn that it’s based on a true story, ‘Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI’ (2017), by American journalist David Grann.
Uncle Bill or William ‘King’ Hale is a cattle rancher wants it all and he is played with a controlled menace by Robert De Niro. He encourages his nephew, Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) who’s returned from the First World War to marry Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone), an independently wealthy Native American woman.
Ernest does his uncle’s bidding and there are some nice courting scenes when he drives her around in his car and she buys him a Stetson – and although you can never be sure it’s love, they make a strong couple.
Meanwhile her family members are dying …then she gets ill but before she is too debilitated, she goes to Washington… to say more would be a spoiler.
‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ gives a lot of detail about the murders before the story swings around when Tom White (Jess Plemons) of the Bureau of Investigation (a precursor to the FBI) comes into town to investigate the killings.
There are some great cinemascope 360 degree angle scenes on the vast expanse of Oklahoma, where the story is set.
The film begins and ends with a native Indian ceremony and it is beautifully edited by Thelma Schoonmaker – his collaborator for over five decades. The film uses several styles including archive footage and the piece de resistance is the ending.
ACV wouldn’t be surprised if the DeCaprio and De Niro will be nominated for an Oscar in the same category.
Don’t miss this dark chapter of American colonial history.
ACV rating: ***** (out of five)
‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ is in cinemas worldwide now – some territories open later now – such as India on October 27 (according to local sources) and will be available on Apple+ TV thereafter – see latest trailer underneath (October 17)
London Film Festival 2023 Martin Scorsese talk
MARTIN SCORSESE did do a ‘masterclass’ talk at the festival on the first Saturday (October 7) and it was hugely thrilling to hear the great maestro talk about his long and very illustrious career, as a filmmaker.
In discussion with Edgar Wright, the British filmmaker and on the board of governors at the BFI (British Film Institute), their chat extended well over the 60-minute billed time and we are pretty sure it could have gone on for another hour or two – it was that good!
You can watch the talk for yourself and there’s a good glossary of films Scorsese mentioned on there as well (in the Youtube text underneath).
Right at the beginning he does talk about Satyajit Ray and seeing ‘Pather Panchali’ (1955) as a young boy at home on his TV in New York.
As well as admiring it, he noted how people from different cultures (other than his own) could also make films about their lives and it speak to people like himself – who had no relation or association to India or Indians. In effect, it opened his eyes to the world beyond his own – and it does what all the best films do – put you often in another place and time and give you a different perspective or understanding.
He also spoke about seeing Jean Renoir’s ‘The River’ (1951) – one of the first films ever made by a European, shot in India and about the country, on TV at home, as well.
These things have stayed with him – aged 80.
What acv also found interesting was his talk about ‘Mean Streets’ (1973) and how he was keen to film it on location in New York but he didn’t have the budget to do that and a producer offered him use of Los Angeles (LA) studios and extra money, if he turned it into a blaxploitation film, which was a very popular and commercially successful strand of filmmaking at the time.
Scorsese just couldn’t and he did shoot some scenes in New York because they could not be created in LA.
The rest as they say is history…
They did also show some clips during the talk – but overran on time and didn’t discuss that much about ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’. But when so much of his work is about identity and especially early American identity – and ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ certainly covers that ground, why he has never made a film about African Americans or worked with great African American actors…? Perhaps he doesn’t, because he isn’t from that community and doesn’t feel qualified – but surely ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ shows what a filmmaker like him can do, when they cross a cultural boundary and produce a work that has resonance on a global level and is told with sympathy and care…? (Sailesh Ram).
Our special Cannes Red Carpet experience at the world premiere…
EARLIER this year we were also fortunate enough to be on the red carpet at Cannes where this film had its world premiere.
I got especially excited being so close to Scorsese, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone (but just out of the frame in our video) – and got a bit carried away. (See the video below from Cannes) and listen right through to the closing credits! It’s only a minute long…
The Native Americans are also very prominent in our short video and of course, London missed out on Lily Gladstone and Leonardo DiCaprio and De Niro (?) coming to LFF, because of the ongoing Screen Actors Guild strike action. I was talking about the Native Americans when I said these folks might never work again together…
The Cannes press conference covers a lot of ground – we were not able to get into the film or the press conference in Cannes – c’est la vie, eh? And had to wait till it came to our home film festival to see it! And hear from the great man himself… (Sailesh Ram).
Our Cannes 2023 Red carpet
BFI London Film Festival talk (October 7 2023)
Cannes 2023 Killers of the Flower Moon press conference
Killers of the Flower Moon trailer (October 17 2023) trailer