Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Martin Scorsese Examines Grim Racist History: ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’

Cinema | October 22nd, 2023

By Greg Carlson

gregcarlson1@gmail.com

Doing press for “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Martin Scorsese has defended the movie’s three and a half hour running time (presented during its theatrical engagement with no intermission), but the results on the screen do the real talking.

The master director’s latest American original – a sturdy blend of genres and conventions including the Western, the “based on a true story” lesson and history-by-suggestion, the family epic, the melodrama, and the crime/gangster film – come together to make something unique to the special artistry of Scorsese, who is most certainly one of our finest living motion picture directors.

David Grann’s nonfiction book of the same title pulls together many threads to explicate an underrepresented chapter of our country’s racist past. The seemingly worthless land inhabited by the members of the Osage Nation covered oil reserves that enriched the tribe beyond anyone’s wildest dream of wealth.

As a result, a crooked scaffold of laws, regulations, schemes, plots, and plans were erected by white people to siphon as much money as possible into their own pockets. Attitudes of entitlement, superiority, and unchecked avarice led to an epidemic of murdered Osage in the early 1920s.

The brilliance of Scorsese’s adaptation revolves around two interpersonal relationships: the romantic bond and marriage between Leonardo DiCaprio’s Ernest Burkhart and Lily Gladstone’s Mollie Kyle and the sinister alliance between Burkhart and his uncle William Hale (Robert De Niro).

DiCaprio fashions a career-best performance as the utterly fucked-up Burkhart. The man’s restlessness and greed are at first the only signifiers of Ernest’s personal drive and motivation. The actor’s instincts to lobby for the part of Burkhart instead of taking the role of federal investigator Tom White (in early drafts, the story was told from the lawman’s perspective) prove correct.

Gladstone is mesmerizing in the most difficult and challenging of the central roles. For much of the movie, Mollie is an invalid deliberately mistreated with spiked insulin administered by Ernest.

Film critics and Gladstone’s collaborators have sung the praises of her contributions to the film. And there is no doubt that she deserves all accolades, but I would have appreciated an opportunity to spend time with Mollie in equal measure to the minutes devoted to Ernest.

In his “New Yorker” review, Richard Brody lays out a convincing case for Mollie’s use of silence and Scorsese’s reasons for minimal character psychology. It may just be part of the larger point that Ernest does things while Mollie has things done to her.

The glue that holds the huge and sweeping “Killers of the Flower Moon” together is the strange and inexplicable love between Ernest and Mollie, even as Ernest’s moral bankruptcy is a constant reminder of the unwholesome, unholy, and degrading treatment of Native Americans by men like Hale, whose evil is as terrifying as anything seen in a horror movie.

Because this particular rendition was not directed by a member of the Osage Nation, it cannot be what Chris Eyre would call an “inside job.” As such, Gladstone’s interpretation of Mollie becomes even more important as the means by which viewers of all races come to appreciate and understand Scorsese’s point of entry into this vital moment in time. 

Recently in:

By Maddie Robinsonmaddierobi.mr@gmail.com This article discusses topics related to mental health and suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or visit 988lifeline.org. …

Homesteading stories shared by late local historianBy Michael M. Millermichael.miller@ndsu.edu The 53rd Germans from Russia Heritage Society Convention convenes July 17-20 at the Baymont Hotel in Mandan, North Dakota. For further…

With Javier Quiroz and Kohlrabi SoupJuly 10 at 7 p.m.The Aquarium226 N. Broadway, Fargo (above Dempsey’s)The Wall Street Journal had this to say about “Black Banjo,” Tray Wellington’s full-length debut: “This is a record…

The WFF Unified School District?By John Strandjas@hpr1.com Both the Fargo and West Fargo School Districts are strategizing their futures. This is necessary, because of immensely challenging financial and geopolitical changes facing…

By Ed Raymondfargogadfly@gmail.comShould ‘The Chosen One’ be Sentenced to Spend Months at each Level?It’s not unusual on this planet, we have had hundreds of men and a couple of women who have used religion to become…

By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.com Holiday wine shopping shouldn’t have to be complicated. But unfortunately it can cause unneeded anxiety due to an overabundance of choices. Don’t fret my friends, we once again have you covered…

By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.com In this land of hotdish and ham, the knoephla soup of German-Russian heritage seems to reign supreme. In my opinion though, the French have the superior soup. With a cheesy top layer, toasted baguette…

HPR chats with Bob Carpenter of the Nitty Gritty Dirt BandBy Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com When asked if it was fair to consider the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band as “the godfathers of contemporary Americana” during our interview,…

Now playing at the Fargo Theatre.By Greg Carlson gregcarlson1@gmail.comPalme d’Or recipient “Anatomy of a Fall” is now enjoying an award-season victory tour, recently picking up Golden Globe wins for both screenplay and…

New Minnesota sculptures include artist’s largest trollBy Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com According to Danish artist and environmental activist Thomas Dambo, “All trash is treasure.” So far, he and his team have built 138…

By John Showalterjohn.d.showalter@gmail.comHigh Plains Reader had the opportunity to interview two mysterious new game show hosts named Milt and Bradley Barker about an upcoming event they will be putting on at Brewhalla. What…

By Annie Prafckeannieprafcke@gmail.com AUSTIN, Texas – As a Chinese-American, connecting to my culture through food is essential, and no dish brings me back to my mother’s kitchen quite like hotdish. Yes, you heard me right –…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comNew Jamestown Brewery Serves up Local FlavorThere’s something delicious brewing out here on the prairie and it just so happens to be the newest brewery west of the Red River and east of the…

By John Showalter  john.d.showalter@gmail.comThey sell fentanyl test strips and kits to harm-reduction organizations and…

JANUARY 19, 1967– MARCH 8, 2023 Brittney Leigh Goodman, 56, of Fargo, N.D., passed away unexpectedly at her home on March 8, 2023. Brittney was born January 19, 1967, to Ruth Wilson Pollock and Donald Ray Goodman, in Hardinsburg,…

By Jim Fugliejimfuglie920@gmail.comMy articles here are about politics. I’m writing this before the North Dakota primary election. You are reading it after the primary. Advantage: readers. So I won’t speculate much on that…