‘Distinctly mis-focused’: Why Scorsese misses marks

Director: Martin Scorsese (GoodFellas)

Director: Martin Scorsese (GoodFellas)

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons.

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Too long spent for too little in return

There’s always a story running somewhere with Martin Scorsese running his mouth off about the sanctity of the cinema experience.

According to the acclaimed director, we should all get off the couch, get out of the house and get in front of the nearest big screen we can find.

So what does ol’ Marty do the next chance he gets behind a camera?

He drops Killers Of the Flower Moon: a three-and-a-half-hour slab of storytelling so slow, so dull and so distinctly mis-focused that it makes the other legendarily long movie of 2023, Oppenheimer, look like a bright and bouncy two-minute TikTok.

This is not to say that Killers Of the Flower Moon is ever a bad movie. However, it is a compromised movie that will have most viewers wishing they were back on their loungeroom couch.

What saves the production (budgeted at, I kid you not, a staggering $300 million!) from falling into an abyss of folly is the terrifying true story it is privileged to tell.

Early on, we learn of the extraordinary good fortune that initially blessed the indigenous Osage people of Oklahoma in the 1920s.

After being shoved off their own territory, this storied American Indian tribe suddenly found themselves to be among the richest people in the world. The Osage had been relocated to a patch of land with the highest concentration of oil reserves in history.

Inevitably, there followed a period of extended bad fortune for the Osage, in which their women in particular were targeted by white men for their personal ‘head rights’ (oil royalties which ran to thousands per month).

Unfortunately, instead of framing this tragic tale from the perspective of the Osage – many of whom were systemically murdered for their money – Scorsese keeps our eyes trained on two white fellas who were out to profit from this sorry situation.

First of all, there is Ernest Burkhart (a slurry, overly mannered display from Leonardo DiCaprio), a slow-witted WWI veteran who uses his marriage to a trusting Osage woman named Mollie (a remarkable Lily Gladstone) as his ticket to riches.

Secondly, there is Ernest’s uncle ‘King’ Hale (Robert De Niro), a supposed friend and advisor to the Osage who sees his nephew’s new extended family as the key to gaining control of the tribe’s overall fortune.

Though DiCaprio and De Niro are the actors most viewers will recognise, their characters are not the protagonists who should be anchoring a tale as complex as this (or for that matter, a movie as long as this).

For everything that has been dutifully included in Killers of the Flower Moon, one crucial factor steadily fades in prominence throughout: the Osage people who lost their lives after seemingly gaining so much.

Killers of the Flower Moon is in cinemas now

THE PIGEON TUNNEL (M)

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Streaming on Apple TV+ from Friday

One of the year’s best documentaries is framed around an extraordinary series of interviews given by master espionage novelist John le Carré (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) shortly before his death in 2020. A serially reluctant subject highly skilled in the dark arts of deflection – he was a trained spy himself, of course – le Carré was never going to drop all of his enigmatic ways for this production.

However, those who have pored over his richly detailed novels (and their often equally engrossing screen adaptations) will be taken aback by how open le Carré proves to be when revisiting a very private past. Looming largest in the author’s memory is his father Ronnie, a lifelong con man who schooled his son in how, when and where people are best led astray. While it is no great leap to make the connection between le Carré’s dubious upbringing (studded with several lost fortunes and sudden changes of address) and the elaborate deceptions that powered his best writing, the vivid way he engages here is as revealing as it is unforgettable.

THE CRIME IS MINE (M)

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Selected cinemas

This sharp, snappy and stylish French farce is set in a fast-living 1930s Paris where two best friends are struggling to make ends meet until a strange opportunity presents itself. Madeline (Nadia Tereszkiewicz) is a C-list actress who garners some A-list fame when accused of murdering a notoriously sleazy movie producer. Madeline’s flatmate and close pal Pauline (Rebecca Marder) just happens to be the kind of lawyer to not only beat all charges, but also bring in the opportunities that will make a fortune for both women.

There is just one problem: an imperious former silent star named Odette (the great Isabelle Huppert). She knows exactly how and why that producer died, and if she blabs to the right people, the careers of Madeline and Pauline will be going the wrong way in a hurry. Directed with real panache and a dry sense of humour by Francois Ozon (Swimming Pool, 8 Women), this is a lively and endearing burst of escapism that fans of French cinema are guaranteed to adore.

Originally published as Slow Killers Of the Killer Moon unlikely to draw cinema crowd

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