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Universal Language :: A Whimsical Fusion of Tehran and Winnipeg
By converting his drab hometown into an exotic land filled with nostalgia, Matthew Rankin seems to be seeking out the universal language of cinema itself. He quits his meaningless job in a Québecois government office and sets out..
EDINBURGH 2024 :: “A SHRINE” Selected for 77th Edinburgh IFF
The festival will feature the world premiere of “A SHRINE” directed by Abdolreza Kahani. This film, a collaborative production between Canada, Iran, and France, is set to compete for the highly esteemed Sean Connery Prize..
KARLOVY VARY 2024 Proxima :: Review: Nothing in Its Place
How far are people willing to go for their political beliefs, and how much can the ideology of a group influence the behavior of an individual? Nothing in Its Place holds up a mirror to more than one revolution..
KARLOVY VARY 2024 :: Noaz Deshe :: Director of Xoftex :: Interview
"I wanted to document the progression of the mental state of stateless people in a refugee camp." The director tells us more about his new film, in which he portrays refugees filming satirical sketches and preparing for a zombie..
KARLOVY VARY 2024 Competition :: Review: Xoftex
Xoftex is the name of a Greek refugee camp for Syrian and Palestinian asylum seekers. To pass the time, camp inhabitants such as Nasser make satirical short films and prepare to make a zombie film. Noaz Deshe explains how he..
Shanghai IFF 2023 :: A Review of 'Cause of Death: Unknown'
The first film by Ali Zarnegar receives an overall acceptable score. The writer and director's extensive experience, including his frequent involvement in short cinema, writing.., has had a positive impact on the film's quality..
Bahar Lellahi :: 40-year-old Iranian Female filmmaker Murdered in Prison
Bahar Lellahi, an Iranian director and screenwriter from the Northern city of Amol and a resident of Tehran, was killed at the Islamic Republic's detention center and was secretly buried in a cemetery near the city of Karaj..
Dead of Night :: A standout feature by Farhad Vilkiji
“Dead of Night”, a standout feature by Farhad Vilkiji, marking his directorial debut, delves into the struggles of an Iranian intellectual navigating political and personal challenges, promising a poignant exploration of human resilience..
BERLINALE 2024 Encounters :: Interview :: Matías Piñeiro
Matías Piñeiro’s experimental, hour-long film 'You Burn Me', an interesting work based on texts by Cesare Pavese and Sappho about the relationship between two women, was included in this year’s Berlinale Encounters program..
Super Size Me :: A terrific cheeky stunt :: small wonder Morgan Spurlock never matched it
'Super Size Me' director Morgan Spurlock dies aged 53. 'Super Size Me' was his masterpiece – a documentary which really did have an effect and challenged the way we think about food..
Cannes 2024 review :: 'The Seed of the Sacred Fig' - A powerful rebellion in the name of art & freedom
Mohammad Rasoulof examines Iran's contemporary tensions through the internalization of turmoil by a family of four. It's a suspenseful and bold call to arms for those..
Sean Baker’s ‘Anora’ Wins Palme d’Or at 2024 Cannes Film Festival
Sean Baker’s Anora has won the Palme d’Or at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival, which wrapped Saturday night (May 25). It marks Baker’s second time in Competition, following 2021’s Red Rocket..
Cannes 2024 :: ‘Grand Tour’ :: Review :: In Search of Lost Time
Closer in spirit to an essay film like "Sans Soleil" than to a conventional love story, this lushly abstract travelogue is as gorgeous as it is impenetrable. Miguel Gomes’ Beguiling Colonial Romance Travels from Saigon to Shanghai in..
Cannes 2024 :: ‘All We Imagine as Light’ :: A Sensual Triumph
India’s First Cannes Competition Title in 30 Years Is a Sensual Triumph. Payal Kapadia captures the way two women in Mumbai move through the world with bracing intimacy. It is both dreamlike and like waking up from a dream..
Cannes 2024 :: Mohammad Rasoulof Speaking to IndieWire
Rasoulof Made It to Cannes for ‘Seed of the Sacred Fig,’ but His Perilous Journey Out of Iran Isn’t Over. "I consider making works of art as my right, and there’s no reason why I wouldn’t fight for this right."..
Cannes 2024 :: Donald Trump Origin Tale ‘The Apprentice’ Gets 11-Minute Ovation At Its Cannes World Premiere
The Trumps were on the red carpet this evening at the Cannes Film Festival — sort of — as Ali Abbasi’s The Apprentice world premiered in competition. There was lots of hugs..
Cannes Film Festival 2024 ::
Francis Ford Coppola Finally Talks Megalopolis

The Oscar-winning legend has been the subject of deafening rumors about his self-financed new epic. For the first time in public, he finally got to tell his story...
UPDATE :: I exist to narrate :: Mohammad Rasoulof writes about his forced departure from Iran
By publishing a post on his personal Instagram page, he announced his forced departure from Iran. His writing, which you can read here, is a testament to the many artists who were driven..
The Phoenix (Simorgh) is finally online!
The Phoenix (Simorgh) is a short film Written & Directed by Nora Niasari. It follows Mr Farid, an exiled Iranian actor, who teaches drama to reluctant asylum seeker teenagers inside an Australian Detention Centre..
Films Boutique boards Mohammad Rasoulof’s Cannes Competition title
Berlin-based Films Boutique has secured world sales rights to Mohammad Rasoulof’s 'The Seed Of The Sacred Fig' ahead of its premiere in Competition at Cannes, and has closed a distribution deal in France..
Nika's Last Breath :: BBC World Service Documentaries
Secret document says Iran security forces molested and killed teen protester. An Iranian teenager was sexually assaulted and killed by three men working for Iran's security forces, a leaked document understood to have been..
Cannes Film Festival 2024 :: Michel Hazanavicius & Mohammad Rasoulof Movies in Competition Lineup
Cannes Film Festival has added some international titles to Competition Lineup: Hazanavicius‘ 'The Most Precious of Cargoes' and Rasoulof‘s 'The Seed of the Sacred Fig'..
'Biological Terror?!' :: Speculations about Alidoosti's unknown disease
According to some sources, Taraneh told her colleagues that she passed out during her interrogation by IRGC intelligence agents and then, realized that she was injected with an unknown ampoule, after which she felt dizzy..
Taraneh Alidoosti's mother: Pray for her! Her disease is severe!
The celebrated Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti's mother has announced that her daughter is suffering from an illness of "unknown origin". Earlier, there were reports that Taraneh Alidoosti was ill and hospitalized..
‘The Apprentice’ :: A dive into the underbelly of the American empire
The drama charts a young Donald Trump’s ascent to power through a Faustian deal with the influential right-wing lawyer and political fixer Roy Cohn. A first look at the forthcoming film from Ali Abbasi, set to premiere at Cannes..
STOCKFISH 2024 :: Review: Tove’s Room
A new biopic about Danish poet Tove Ditlevsen and her tortured marriage to the sadistic news editor Victor Andreasen. We’re in Copenhagen in 1969, and the entire action of this tense, neurotic – yet very intriguing – kammerspiel takes place..
American Fiction :: Movie Review
Jeffrey Wright gives a knockout performance in this edgy, Oscar-nominated comedy. Cord Jefferson marries broad humour with affecting familial dysfunction and biting observations on race. This season’s edgiest comedy arrives with richly deserved Oscar nominations for..
CPH:DOX 2024 :: Review: Silent Trees
Zwiefka – whose last film, Vika! has enjoyed a healthy festival run and is still travelling the world – now trains her lens on a completely different topic: the story of a Kurdish refugee girl stranded in the no man’s land between Belarus and Poland...
CPH:DOX 2024 :: Review: Immortals
Immortals is a dystopian film that turns into an ode to fragility, and it shows the contrasting feelings of those who allowed themselves the luxury of hoping that David might kill Goliath. Maja Tschumi’s film is built around the hopes and broken dreams, but most of all the..
Exiled Iranian Filmmakers Call Out AMPAS Over Omission
Exiled Iranian Filmmakers (IIFMA) has written to AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) to protest the omission of murdered Iranian director Dariush Mehrjui from the In Memoriam segment of the Academy Award..
Oscar 2024 :: How to Watch Every 2024 Oscar-Nominated Movie
It’s time to fire up your Letterboxd, roller-skate out of the real world, and head off to movie land. The 2024 Oscar nominations have been officially announced, giving you a perfect watchlist for catching up on all the films you..
Berlin: Indie Juries Pick :: ‘Sex’, ‘Dying’ and ‘Cake’
Matthias Glasner's German family epic 'Sterben' (Dying), Iranian feature 'My Favourite Cake,' and Dag Johan Haugerud's Norwegian drama 'Sex' picked up multiple awards from the independent juries at the 74th Berlinale..
BERLINALE 2024 Awards :: Mati Diop’s Dahomey bags the Golden Bear
The 74th Berlinale (15-25 February) was brought to a close tonight by the traditional awards ceremony at the Berlinale Palast, which saw the triumph of Mati Diop’s Dahomey, the winner of this year’s Golden Bear..
BERLINALE 2024 :: Competition Review: Architecton
Several thousand years of architectural history are woven together in Kossakovsky's visionary blockbuster, which almost without dialogue - but with images as sharp as flint and a soundtrack as massive as a pillow - is a total cinematic..
BERLINALE 2024 :: Review: Afterwar
An immersive and uncategorisable film, shot over a period of 15 years, was made in close collaboration with its four Kosovar protagonists. A dark chapter in modern European history draws to a close. Haunted by memories of the past and caught in an uncertain state of limbo..
BERLINALE 2024 Competition :: Review: My Favourite Cake
All eyes were on writer-directors Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha – or, rather, their absence – at the world premiere of their new film, My Favourite Cake, which has just made its debut in the Competition section of..
NAVALNY (2022) :: Navalny’s Plight in a Russian Prison Highlighted
The fact that this documentary movie involves one of the most brazen incidents of state sponsored assassination in memory means this is a unique document of a very singular man. After almost being poisoned to death in 2020..
CPH:DOX 2024 :: The line-up of the 2024 CPH:DOX competitions
CPH:DOX unveils the films nominated across all six award categories. The selection features 66 films in competition, among which 47 are world premieres, 17 international premieres and 2 European premieres..
BERLINALE 2024 :: ‘My Favourite Cake’ Directors Deliver Powerful Message From Iran
‘My Favourite Cake’ Directors Deliver Powerful Message From Iran After Authorities Banned Travel to Berlinale: ‘Like Parents Forbidden From Looking at Their Newborn Child’..
Farshad Hashemi :: Director of 'Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others' :: Interview
“I can’t predict the future, but I know this is just the beginning”. The winner of Göteborg’s Ingmar Bergman International Debut Award plays with fact and fiction in his debut film..
BERLINALE 2024 :: EXCLUSIVE :: Trailer for Berlinale Panorama entry 'My Stolen Planet'
The German-Iranian co-production is a diary-style narrative by Farahnaz Sharifi, from her childhood to the 2022 Women, Life, Freedom uprising..
Farshad Hashemi's film wins The Ingmar Bergman Debut Award at Goteborg Film Festival
The Ingmar Bergman International Debut Award goes to Farshad Hashemi's feature debut 'Me, Maryam, The Children And 26 Others'. The prize consists of a stay at The Bergman Estate on..
‘Eternal’ :: Rotterdam Review :: A soulful exploration of love and regret
How can you commit to the future when life on earth seems so finite? It is a question that haunts the central character in writer/director Ulaa Salim’s admirably offbeat romance Eternal..
IFFR 2024 Tiger Competition :: 'Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others'
Farshad Hashemi's feature debut, Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others, which has just world-premiered in IFFR's Tiger Competition, will inevitably inspire associations with Iranian cinema's tradition of intertwining..
Berlinale Calls for Iran to Allow Directors to Attend Festival
The Berlin Film Festival has called on Iran to allow directors Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha to leave the country to attend the world premiere of their new film My Favorite Cake..
"My Favourite Cake" :: to premiere in the Berlinale Competition
Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha’s My Favourite Cake to premiere in the Berlinale Competition. Last year, the pair were banned from travelling in relation to their film..
Asghar Farhadi, Iranian filmmaker :: “I saw how powerful women are”
In a new interview with french newspaper Le Monde, Farhadi reveals he won't be making any new films in Iran, for the time being, as an act of resistance against the regime..
IPADOC 2024 :: Review :: Son of the Mullah
Nahid Persson pays tribute to Rouhollah Zam, an exiled Iranian activist and journalist with a tragic fate, with a moving film about the pursuit of regime opponents. “I had a beautiful life before I left Iran”..
‘Gunda’ :: Berlin Review :: Intensely moving and quite genuinely unique
Anyone who never thought they could imagine the feelings of an animal will have their mind changed here. Viktor Kossakovsky’s extraordinary film is every bit as resonant as Bresson’s ’Balthazar’ or Bela Tarr’s ’Turin Horse’..
BERLINALE 2024 :: “Sons” by Gustav Möller :: Selected for main Competition
BERLIN. “The Guilty” director Gustav Möller's prison drama “Sons” will be celebrating the World premiere in the International Competition strand of the Berlinale as the first Danish-language film in eight years..
BERLINALE 2024 Competition :: Encounters
The Berlinale (15-25 February) has announced the full line-ups of its Competition and Encounters sections. Twenty films will vie for the Golden and Silver Bears, including two debut features..
La chimera :: A fairy tale with a social conscience and plenty of humor
Alice Rohrwacher's film is clever, ambitious, and funny throughout, but it also works as an intelligent meditation on our attitudes toward life, love, and death. Get used to her name, because she will be sticking around well after..
Iran: PEN International Calls for investigation over Baktash Abtin’s tragic death
PEN International holds the Iranian authorities fully responsible for the death of the prominent writer, poet, and filmmaker Baktash Abtin and calls for an urgent investigation into..
GOLDEN GLOBES 2024 :: 'Anatomy of a Fall' wins two Golden Globes
Justine Triet’s film shone bright at the ceremony, at which the main winners were Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer and Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things, which also boast European participation..
Tótem :: A dazzling, vibrant child’s-eye view of jubilation and tragedy
Lila Avilés’s latest film is filtered largely through the perspective of a seven-year-old girl who experiences the ups and downs of life in a day with her big and beautiful family.. A co-production between Mexico, Denmark and..
Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers Is a Holiday Triumph
Alexander Payne's new film The Holdovers, starring Paul Giamatti, is the kind of wonderful comedy-drama we used to take for granted. Today it feels like a cinematic miracle. In Payne’s work, one individual’s failings..
Film Orgs call on Iranian authorities to drop charges against two movie directors
Some 30 film organizations, festivals and professionals have signed an open letter calling on Iranian authorities to immediately drop all charges against directors Maryam Moghadam..
Absence :: Ali Mosaffa's mystical thriller
An Iranian man, while investigating into his father's youth in Prague, finds himself in the shoes of a third man who is almost dead and happens to be his half-brother. Absence is an attempt to shed light on a forgotten corner..
‘Cafe’ :: Review :: Screened at 64th Thessaloniki Int. Film Festival 2023
May seem absurdist, but it is at least partially autobiographical. Like his countryman Jafar Panahi, a ban on filmmaking didn’t stop Mihandoust and, in the three years he was waiting for the sentence to be enacted, he..
Stockholm International Film Festival Awards 2023
Best Film: “The Settlers” by Felipe Gálvez Haberle. In a remarkable triumph, Chilean maestro Felipe Gálvez’s brutal western clinched the coveted Best Film award. The film delves into the annals of Chilean colonization and..
36th TIFF :: Tokyo 2023 :: Winners
Family drama Snow Leopard, directed by the late Tibetan filmmaker Pema Tseden, has won the Tokyo Grand Prix, the top prize at this year’s Tokyo Film Festival. Tatami by Zar Amir Ebrahimi and Guy Nattiv won the Special Jury Prize, also the award for Best Actress for Zar Amir..
Tokyo Film Festival 2023
The Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF), set to run October 23 to November 1, revealed the lineup for its 36th edition, including 20 world premieres across its two competition strands. The festival features 15 titles in its main Competition section led by Japan and China..
GoCritic! Animest 2023 :: Review :: The Siren
As shown through the eyes of a teenage boy, Sepideh Farsi's animated film shows both the horrors and kindness that wartime brings. A striking, bleakly beautiful account of living in a war zone, which captures a traumatic and..
LONDON 2023 :: Review :: Celluloid Underground
Unsuitable films were burned after the Islamic regime took over Iran. But one man stashed away reels and reels of banned and western movies – to thrill a new generation in secret film clubs.. A salute to the underground film lovers..
Golshifteh Farahani On the Shocking News of One of Iran's most prominent film-makers' Murder
"I did my very first movie 'The Pear Tree' with him when I was 14 years old. He was One of the most incredible directors of Iran and a great friend throughout these 26 years"..
Noted Iranian film director and his wife found stabbed to death in their home
Fans of the celebrated Iranian film director Dariush Mehrjui have woken to the shocking news of his murder at home by an unknown assailant. He was 83. He was a co-founder of Iran’s film new wave in the early 1970s..
ORCA :: A Protest Against Hate, Intolerance and Dehumanization
Iranian swimmer (Taraneh Alidoosti) fights abuse and oppression with an “Orca” as her Spirit Animal. This drama ... is a genuinely inspiring story, in part because it doesn't adhere to the formula we might expect..
Copenhagen Cinematheque :: 'Leila's Brothers' :: Film of the Month in October
Iranian cinema surprised at last year's Cannes festival – this time with a screwball comedy about finances and love, family relations and generational gaps..
LOCARNO 2023 :: Radu Jude :: Interview :: It's Later Than You Think
Jude once again proves himself to be one of the most original auteurs of our times. Moreover, his lack of fear at being controversial – or simply wrong – allows him to create cinema on an extraordinary scale that does not necessarily..
OSCARS 2024 :: European titles submitted for the Oscars race
European countries reveal their titles submitted for the Best International Feature Film Award at the 2024 Academy Awards. With the 96th Academy Awards ceremony scheduled to take place in Hollywood on 10 March, 2024..
Oscars 2024 :: Denmark Picks ‘The Promised Land’ for Best International Feature Category
Denmark has picked its 2024 Oscar contender, selecting period epic The Promised Land as its official Academy Award entry in the best international feature category..
Oscars 2024 :: Sweden selects Milad Alami’s 'Opponent' as Oscar candidate
“We are very proud and honoured to be the Swedish submission to the Oscars this year! I am personally extra proud of our fantastic actors and our team.” Alami said. The film produced by Annika Rogell for Tangy is also nominated for..
Female Freedom Fighters :: The Politics of Women's Hair
Why the World’s First Feminist Revolution is Happening in Iran. A female revolution is underway in Iran. The mullahs are fighting back with brutal force. A year after it all began, women aren't giving up..
Oscars 2024 :: 'The Night Guardian' :: Iran Oscar entry
Iran has submitted Reza Mirkarimi’s The Night Guardian for Best International Film category at the 96th Academy Awards, in a move that will likely prompt pushback from the country’s dissident film community..
Venice 2023 :: ‘Green Border’ Review: Agnieszka Holland’s Humanitarian heart-in-mouth thriller Masterpiece
A modern-day resistance movie dealing with a new kind of fascism, and very much of a piece with Holland's previous classics 'In Darkness'..
Venice 2023 Winners :: Full List :: Golden Lion Goes To Yorgos Lanthimos For ‘Poor Things’
The 80th Venice Film Festival handed out its awards and Yorgos Lanthimos has clinched the top prize with his latest feature Poor Things, starring Emma Stone; Hamaguchi, Sarsgaard..
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Nature cannot be evil, only indifferent. But what about us? Hamaguchi is not interested in taking the easy road to a satisfactory resolution. On the contrary; his story runs up hard against..
Venice 2023 :: ‘The Beast’ Review :: Bertrand Bonello’s Trippy Sci-Fi
Is it sci-fi? Is it a romance? Is it a mystery? Is it a drama? It’s all these things together and none of them at the same time. It is moving and alienating, intellectual and visceral, it is challenging and confusing but it’s undeniably a..
Venice 2023 :: Woody Allen Gets Rapturous Reception :: Talks Love Of European Cinema; Life-Career Luck..
Allen was last in Venice in 2007, with Cassandra’s Dream starring Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor, and prior to that was invited in 1995 to receive a Career Golden Lion, but did..
VENICE 2023 Giornate degli Autori :: Interview: Ayat Najafi :: Director of The Sun Will Rise
The director talks about his Iranian-shot film, which documents the trials and tribulations of a theatre company, while outside, in the streets, youngsters are demonstrating..
Venice 2023 Flash Mob :: In Solidarity with Iranian pro-democracy protests
Jane Campion, Damien Chazelle, Zar Amir Ebrahimi and Guy Nattiv joined a flash mob on the Venice Film Festival’s red carpet on Saturday in support of the Woman, Life, Freedom protests in Iran..
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‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ Review

Cannes 2023
‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ Review:
DiCaprio Gives His Best Performance for Scorsese’s Bitterest Crime Epic

By David Ehrlich, indiewire.com
May 20, 2023 3:45 pm

Martin Scorsese triumphs yet again. --Luke Hicks, The Film Stage

Clocking in at close to 3½ hours, Killers of the Flower Moon rates high in the 21st-century Scorsese canon, but it asks its viewers for substantial patience. --Donald Clarke, Irish Times

A story about greed, corruption, and the mottled soul of a country that was born from the belief that it belonged to anyone callous enough to take it.

Martin Scorsese's movie about the Osage Nation murders sacrifices the mythic sweep of David Grann's book in favor of telling a poisonous love story.

Martin Scorsese may like to think of “Killers of the Flower Moon” as the Western that he always wanted to make, but this frequently spectacular American epic about the genocidal conspiracy that was visited upon the Osage Nation during the 1920s is more potent and self-possessed when it sticks a finger in one of the other genres that bubble up to the surface over the course of its three-and-a-half-hour runtime.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone in Killers of the Flower Moon
"Killers of the Flower Moon"

The first and most obvious of those is a gangster drama in the grand tradition of the director’s previous work. Just when it seemed like “The Irishman” might’ve been Scorsese’s final word on his signature genre, they’ve pulled him back in for another movie full of brutal killings, bitter voiceovers, and biting conclusions about the corruptive spirit of American capitalism. “Gimme Shelter” may not have made it into the final cut, but the chugging bass groove of Robbie Robertson’s brilliantly anachronistic score almost leads you to believe that it might.

And yet, the “Reign of Terror” — which came in the wake of an oil discovery that made the members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma the richest people per capita on planet Earth — proves to be an uncomfortably vast backdrop for Scorsese’s  more intimate brand of crime saga.

The book from which “Killers of the Flower Moon” has been adapted is a sweeping tale about the end of the Wild West and the birth of the 20th century, as the author David Grann devotes roughly equal time to the modern sociopath who orchestrated the Osage slayings and the old-fashioned cowboy who J. Edgar Hoover dispatched to stop him. Scorsese’s more narrowly focused version takes stock of those tectonic shifts in our nation’s history, but only in passing. Its primary interest is limited to the sinister mastermind and his favorite lapdog, two beady-eyed fucks whose understanding of the new American landscape was limited to the belief that it still belonged to them.

William Hale saw the Osage as mere stewards for the wealth his country had accidentally gifted to its indigenous population in the act of stealing their land. He maintained a holy conviction that America was still a place where certain people could get away with murder committed in the name of white progress, and the most distressing passages of Scorsese’s film make clear why Hale may have continued to believe that even after the Bureau of Investigation began to pursue him. But if Grann’s book was an expansive conspiracy thriller that teased out the facts of the case while always keeping at least one eye fixed on America’s transition from myth to modernity, Eric Roth’s script casually identifies the murderers as soon as it can in order to drill that much deeper into the relationship between them. This “Killers of the Flower Moon” doesn’t ebb and flow so much as it seeps out from the ground and pools in a small handful of different places.

Needless to say, Roth’s approach doesn’t pan out so well for the aforementioned cowboy, as the straight-shooting Tom White is diminished to the point that he would hardly even register in this story if not for the quiet moral strength that Jesse Plemons brings to the role. He’s just a stiff man in a striped suit, as opposed to a living emblem of the faded American West. Ironically, Roth and Scorsese originally envisioned White as the protagonist of this story, only to start over from scratch once they realized that centering law enforcement would pull too much focus away from the Osage themselves, and from the awful toll these events took upon their entire community. Even in the finished version — despite a host of indelible performances from Native American actors like William Belleau and Tantoo Cardinal — the haunting witness they offer to the horror around them is less immediate than the silence that surrounds it.

What Roth’s adaptation does allow is for “Killers of the Flower Moonto blossom into a compellingly multi-faceted character study about the men behind the massacre. Even more importantly, it invites the most recent of Scorsese’s late-career triumphs to become the most interesting of the many different movies that comprise it: A twisted love story about the marriage between an Osage woman and the white man who — unbeknownst to her — helped murder her entire family so that he could inherit the headrights for their oil fortune.

That sepia-toned saga of slow-poisoned self-denial is sustained by the best performance of Leonardo DiCaprio’s entire career. The former matinee idol has never been shy about playing low-lifes and scum-bums, but his nuanced and uncompromising turn as the cretinous Ernest Burkhart mines new wonders from the actor’s long-standing lack of vanity.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone in “Killers of the Flower Moon”screenshot/Apple

Killers of the Flower Moonbegins with Ernest returning to his hometown of Fairfax, Oklahoma after the end of World War I (where he suffered a “blown up gut” that seems to have limited his ability to do physical labor), and from the moment he arrives at the local train station he finds that the hierarchy of power has changed in his absence. The Osage population is now awash in the lavish wealth they’ve come to enjoy since the American government accidentally relocated them atop a veritable gold mine, while opportunistic whites from near and far are scrambling to get their hands on that money any way they can.

For some men, that means taking photographs or selling cars along the booming main street that Scorsese uses as his film’s most vibrant and transportive backdrop (with some help from legendary production designer Jack Fisk). For other, more conniving types, that means marrying into Osage money, which — due to a flagrantly racist “guardianship” system that declared Native Americans too “incompetent” to handle their own finances — would also grant these gold-digging trophy husbands full control over their wives’ cash.

For his part, the not-so-bright Ernest seems mostly bemused by the whole situation. A New York seven but a Fairfax 12, he saunters around town with the slack-jawed swagger of someone who’s got a limitless supply of moonshine at the start of Prohibition, with DiCaprio delivering every one of Ernest’s twangy half-thoughts directly from the bottom of his sunken jowls; imagine an entire performance born from the Lemmons scene in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and a character designed to pacify all those people who argued that Jordan Belfort was just too darn likable.

Ernest’s good looks, bad brains, and general disinterest in the consequences of his own actions wouldn’t seem to be a recipe for success, but his upwardly mobile uncle — William Hale, the self-proclaimed “King of the Osage Hills” — knows a useful idiot when he sees one. Played by a sickly sweet and unyieldingly sinister Robert De Niro, Hale is a local businessman who claims, with no small amount of condescension, to love the Osage like his own children. In fact, he would love for them to be his own children, with their headrights gushing up to his wallet like oil from the ground beneath their feet. As Hale puts it to his nephew: “If you’re gonna make trouble, make it big.”

By that point, Hale has already identified Ernest as the perfect derrick for one of the biggest untapped veins in town: An unmarried Osage woman named Mollie Kyle. Soon to be rechristened Mrs. Burkhart (“Certain Women” breakout Lily Gladstone, an undeniably major talent), Mollie may be “incompetent” under the eyes of the white man’s law, but she can’t even say that word without betraying the bitterly ferocious intellect of someone who knows the score, recognizes that she’s being played, and has reluctantly accepted the fact that her people have few alternative options.

Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio in “Killers of the Flower Moon” Apple

Gladstone conveys that much and more within just a few seconds of appearing on screen, which proves essential to a very long film that never affords her character the time she deserves. Mollie’s first-act flirtation with Ernest finds “The Killers of the Flower Moon” at its most agile and alive, with Scorsese firing on all cylinders as his movie explodes out of the gate. As Mollie’s closest relatives start dropping like flies, however, and Mrs. Ernest Burkhart herself slips into a diabetic stupor that will keep her off her feet for the length of an entire “Kundun,” the story around her downshifts into a scattered array of errant details that don’t equal the sum of their parts (at least upon the first viewing of a film that’s impossible to fully digest in one go). By the time Mollie re-emerges into the spotlight a few hours later, still the movie’s richest character, it’s too late to plumb the full complexity of her feelings about the terror on either a personal or collective level.

That proves all the more frustrating because she and Ernest make such a spellbinding pair together, particularly as their genuine affection for each other begins to outlive many of Mollie’s other family members. Ernest becomes so accustomed to the leash Hale keeps around his neck that he almost surrenders the last of his free will, but DiCaprio’s performance — against all odds — stirs a strange kind of sympathy from the spectacle of an oafish, vile man who no longer understands the truth of his own feelings, let alone the role he may have played in poisoning the only person who cares about him. It’s thrillingly ambiguous and uncomfortable stuff, and Gladstone matches DiCaprio beat-for-beat as a woman who experiences the same queasiness because she does understand the truth of her own feelings.

That this film survives the semi-tedious courtroom drama it becomes toward the end is a testament to Scorsese’s enduring genius for bad romance; no storyteller on Earth is better at blurring the fine line between love and exploitation, whether between two people, or two peoples. It might be a bit reductive to think of Ernest and Mollie’s relationship as a metaphor for that between white America and the Osage Nation, but the anguish and confusion that Scorsese wrings from it is so powerful that it practically demands to be considered in such a broad historical context. At the very least, it resonates within a context of Scorsese’s own: as De Niro’s puckered Hale plots the destruction of the same Osage Nation families who saw him as a benevolent intermediary to white America, you might hear echoes (or pre-cursors) of the same disassociation that coursed through the likes of “Casino” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” I was reminded of the last thought that went through Ace Rothstein’s head before a car exploded under his feet: “When you love someone, you’ve gotta trust them. There’s no other way. You’ve got to give them the key to everything that’s yours. Otherwise, what’s the point? And for a while, I believed that’s the kind of love I had.”

But it’s not the kind of love he gave, or the kind that Hale gives here to a people who are in dire need of a white man with their best interests at heart. What they fail to realize is that Hale is convinced the Osage Nation’s time is over, and that he’s just an agent of fate who’s helping to unburden them of their wealth before they settle into the past. With the help of Ernest’s brother (Scott Shepherd) and the rest of his lackeys (a deep bench of great faces, including Sturgill Simpson and the morbidly hilarious Louis Cancelmi), Hale kills the Osage with the indifference of a tiger mauling its prey.

Even in spite of Hale’s anti-historical reasoning, however, the film’s pinhole focus makes it hard to appreciate him as anything more than a homicidal capitalist. That’s what he was, of course, but without broader context this smiling monster comes off as more of an anomaly than a symptom of a deeper American sickness (Roth and Scorsese’s wise decision to invoke the Tulsa Race Massacre is the exception that proves the rule). Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto’s many-splendored palette of dry and dusty browns creates a palpable sense of time and place, but the frame of his camera is seldom allowed to expand much wider than Fisk’s Main Street set, as a story that begins with an eye toward the limitless potential of America’s future gradually constricts into a series of medium shots that frame out the same people from whom that future was denied.

It’s a difficult balancing act for a filmmaker as gifted and operatic as Scorsese, whose ability to tell any story rubs up against his ultimate admission that this might not be his story to tell. And so, for better or worse, Scorsese turns “Killers of the Flower Moon” into the kind of story that he can still tell better than anyone else: A story about greed, corruption, and the mottled soul of a country that was born from the belief that it belonged to anyone callous enough to take it.

Grade: B+

Killers of the Flower Moon” premiered at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. Apple Studios and Paramount Pictures will release it in theaters on Friday, October 6.

Night Train To Lisbon
Annette Focks


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