Michael Buckner for Variety
Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday night to the biggest standing ovation. An epic 3 hour, 26 minute look at greed, racism, and a dark and largely unexplored chapter of American history, stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone. He kept the crowd so elated that they rose to their feet and started clapping for about 9 minutes after the credits rolled and the lights came on.
It was clear that Cannes loved what Scorsese had brought to the south of France, as he returned to the festival for the first time since 1985’s “After Hours.” And that’s good news for Apple Original Films, which gave the author a $200 million budget to make his vision come true, in the hopes that he’d deliver one of his signature explorations of crime. However, many of these films are revealed on the streets of New York. This movie is set in northeastern Oklahoma where members of the Osage Nation are being systematically murdered to sinister ends.
DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Gladstone, and Jesse Plemons walked the red carpet ahead of the premiere, braving rainy weather and clouds to give the evening some glowing glamor. Gladstone, who plays an Osage woman targeted for her oil fortune by her greedy husband, earned rave reviews and fought back tears as the crowd at the premiere cheered loudly. On social media, Oscar bloggers were already taking advantage of her performance to generate interest in potential awards.
As applause continued after the film ended, Scorsese took the microphone to address the audience. “Thank you, Kosges,” he said. “Everyone connected to the photo. My old friend Bob, Leo, Jesse and Lily. We shot this two years ago in Oklahoma. It was about time to show up but Apple did a great job with us. There was a lot of grass. I’m a New Yorker. I was so amazed. It’s an amazing experience.” We lived in this world.”
The ovation would have lasted longer had the film-maker not been called in to speak to the packed theatre. Scorsese kept saying “thank you” as the crowd continued to cheer. He seemed energized by the response, though he also made it clear that he didn’t like the camera lingering over him (a risk from a Cannes experiment where every move of the listeners in the audience is captured for posterity). Around Scorsese, the actors who played the Osage members wiped their eyes, overcome with emotion.
The movie started 45 minutes late, but the crowd inside the palace seemed unfazed. After all, “Killers of the Flower Moon” was the festival’s most anticipated film and top ticket, and it’s one of those moments when Hollywood sends its brightest talent to the South of France to celebrate the art (and glamour) of filmmaking. And there were tycoons among the movie stars. Apple CEO Tim Cook appeared at Cannes to support the company’s entry into the film industry. When the Apple banner flashed across the screen after the movie started, the crowd erupted into applause, in contrast to the reception given at the media show (more on that later).
Elsewhere along the Croisette, Cannes’ mayhem streak continued at a 4:30 p.m. press screening of “Killers” at the Debussy Theater, which had a queue that snaked all the way to the Club Maritime, located behind the festival’s main hub. Journalists who had arrived an hour before the show were forced to wait outside, huddled in the pouring rain. The doors were opened just 10 minutes before the show was scheduled to begin, sparking a mad scramble as people fought their way to get onto the stage. By the time the auditorium was fully seated (it remains unclear if everyone in line had entered it) and the lights had dimmed, the film was 15 minutes late.
However, the festival’s uncharacteristic delay did not dampen the mood at home, as the press occupied nearly every seat in the 1,068-seat cinema, erupting into raucous cheering as the film began. When the Apple TV+ logo drew boos, a brave member of the press exclaimed, “Hey! They paid for it!”
Overall, De Niro and DiCaprio’s unexpected comedic work, particularly the sequence in which De Niro hits DiCaprio with a paddle at the abandoned Mason’s Inn, was warmly received with whoops of laughter throughout the film. Gladstone appeared to have stolen the film from the two vets. “She’s amazing,” an audience member enthused about her performance at a pivotal moment near the end of the film.
Based on David Grann’s 2017 book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, Scorsese’s latest installment takes place in 1920s Oklahoma and focuses on a series of murders in the Osage Nation. The newly formed FBI arrives on the scene to investigate and uncover a sinister operation. The supporting cast includes Brendan Fraser and John Lithgow (Scorsese also has a cameo, which garnered standing ovations).
Notably, “Flower Moon” marks the first time that the two Academy Award winners, DiCaprio and De Niro, have worked together on a feature film since Michael Caton-Jones’ 1993 drama “This Boy’s Life.” Both actors played fictionalized versions of themselves in Scorsese’s film. The short “The Audition”. De Niro earned Best Actor Oscar nominations by starring in “Taxi Driver,” “Cape Fear” and “Raging Bull,” winning for the latter. DiCaprio was nominated for an Academy Award for Scorsese’s “The Aviator” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” “Flower Moon” marks the first time all three collaborators have worked together on a feature.
Scorsese worked closely with Osage Nation during the production of “Flower Moon,” with Osage Nation president Jeffrey Standingbeer serving as a consultant. Gladstone said diverse The Osage Nation played a huge role in shaping the movie from Scorsese’s original plan.
“Business is better when you let the world tell you,” Gladstone said. “It was so refreshing how I got to be involved with the production [Osage Nation] Community. As society prepared for our existence, the more society became involved in the film. It’s a different movie than the movie [Scorsese] I almost got into the business because of what the community had to say about how it was made and what it was filmed.”
Apple and Paramount will release “Killers of the Flower Moon” in theaters on October 20th. It will then premiere on Apple’s streaming service at an unspecified date.
Killers of the Flower Moon screened out of competition at Cannes, so it wouldn’t be eligible for the Palme d’Or, the festival’s highest award. Scorsese won the Palme d’Or for “Taxi Driver” and took home the directing award at Cannes for “After Hours.”
Manuri Ravindran contributed to this report.
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