Word of warning – lots of NSFW content ahead
Lets say that Killers of the Flower Moon, Martin Scorsese’s latest, is not the kind of movie you want to watch while celebrating one of your relatives birthdays. Not unless your idea of fun includes 3 hours of people being hacked to bits and dying (or almost dying) before their time is up. I plead ignorance, though – beforehand I was told its a detective starring DeNiro and DiCaprio.
Well, that last description is not completely off – it is a bit of detective tale, the way it could’ve written by, say, Flannery O’Connor instead of Agatha Christie. As grim as it might be, American South with its penchant for violence endlessly fascinates me, so I can’t say those time spent watching “Killers” was a total waste.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which first began publishing the names for the full moons in the 1930s, recorded the name given by American tribes to the full moon in May as the “Flower Moon” because of the flowers blooming across North America, signaling abundance and the coming of Spring after a cold, hard winter.
At the heart of Scorsese’s latest lies a lurid tale of a murder of Osage people in Osage County, Oklahoma in early 1920s. The crime in question was carried out by a rancher William Hale with the help of numerous accomplices including his nephew Ernest Burkhart (portrayed by DeNiro and DiCaprio, respectively). And if that’s not grim enough the movie also contains numerous references to Tulsa race massacre, another atrocity in an era full of them.
Yep, walk in the park this movie isn’t – it takes no prisoners in portraying the unabashed violence of pre-civil rights era. While watching “Killers” I caught myself thinking how much it reminds me of another movie on the said subject – Alan Parker’s Mississippi Burning, a movie equally soaked in violence/gore.
There’s a specific scene towards the end in which Hale quips he doesn’t know who Hoover is while being questioned by a Texas sheriff at a barbershop. That one instantly brought to mind the barbershop scene in MB – one full of colorful exchanges such as this one
Well, if that’s how you feel about it, Mr FBI Man… why don’t you drink up that beer and get the hell on out of here and get back to your commie, nigger-lovin’ bosses up north?
You must not know my boss — Mr. Hoover. He’s not too fond of commies. He’d be on your side there.
Whether its an intentional homage to the Parker’s movie I’m not sure, but the gut feeling tells me that Scorsese, the eternal student of cinema, is at the very least familiar with Parker’s work. Another thing that fuses the two in my mind is the concept of justice arriving sooner or later, no matter how dire the situation at hand is.
The idea of FBI waltzing into town and becoming heroes doesn’t sit well with me, but that still beats the alternative in which murderers get away with crime and live the rest of their lives free. And so it goes that both movies feature FBI agents coming in and regulating / putting those responsible behind bars for good.
Allusions don’t end there. Whether intentionally or not, the way that criminals flip on each other at the end of that movie reminds me of a certain trial we’re witnessing right now. The fact that the said trial is happening in Georgia is giving me even more of a pause. May the justice prevail in that case too.
Last, but not least – its worth mentioning that “Killers of the Flower Moon” pays a lot of attention to music. Soundtrack was written by the late Robbie Robertson of The Band and quick scan of movie reveals not one, but 3(!) musicians involved – namely Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson and Pete Yorn. And that, yet again, brings me to the idea that Scorsese is both a master and an apprentice who borrowed the idea from Mystery Train and Sling Blade (both of which happen to be my favorite movies).