Now that’s a Cannes Film Festival standing ovation.
Martin Scorsese brought his epic “Killers of the Flower Moon” to Cannes on Saturday evening, and the crowd that filled the 3,200-seat Grand Theatre Lumiere responded pretty much the way you’d expect them to respond to an iconic director who first came to this festival with a little film called “Taxi Driver” that won the Palme d’Or a full 47 years ago.
If Cannes is the palace of cinema, Scorsese is royalty who can stand alongside Fellini, Godard, Kurosawa, Bergman and a few others. And “Killers of the Flower Moon” has the feel of a late-career opus of the first magnitude, so the Cannes audience was unreserved in its enthusiasm for him and for the extraordinary lineup of stars he brought with him, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio for starters.
If you want to put a clock on it, the ovation lasted around eight minutes, longer than the five-to-six-minute one that has become about average for Cannes. Scorsese got the most enthusiastic reaction, of course, but the audience was also taken by Lily Gladstone, who covered her face and turned away from the camera to compose herself. The clapping stopped only when Scorsese took the microphone and began to talk, then it started up again for another three minutes, finally ending when he walked into the lobby.
Did it matter that “Flower Moon” might well prove exhausting to some with its three-hour-and-26-minute running time? Nope. Did it bother anybody that it came bearing the imprimatur of a computer company, Apple Original Films? Hell, no.
(OK, maybe that part mattered to a handful of famously cranky French exhibitors if they snagged the hottest ticket in town, but none of those naysayers stood a chance to be heard above the ovations.)
This is a Cannes that in its first five days has also seen an outpouring of sentiment for Michael Douglas, who was given the Honorary Palme d’Or on opening night, and Harrison Ford, who got the same award as a surprise before the premiere of “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” two days later. But while Douglas and especially Ford are beloved and legendary, Cannes is a directors’ festival and Scorsese is a whole new ballgame.
And while there was nothing terribly unexpected about the length or volume of the standing ovation that erupted at the end of his film from an audience that had reason to be exhausted at that point, it was a thrilling shot of energy nonetheless.
Scorsese started by thanking the Osage people and talking about how much fun it was to shoot in Oklahoma. “There was lots of grass. I’m a New Yorker!” he said. “We also lived in that world of the Osage, and we really miss it now.”
At the end, he turned his attention to the festival’s director: “Thank you, Thierry (Fremaux), for this extraordinary and so moving experience.”
While it is only May — and at this point last year even the most ardent fans of “Everything Everywhere All at Once’ were not predicting a Best Picture win — it’s impossible not to think about this year’s Oscar race and start calculating the chances of “Killer Moon” in all the usual categories. It might not be DiCaprio’s most unanimously praised performance, but he’ll be in the running, as will De Niro in a juicy supporting role and especially Gladstone as the heart of the movie. The three-and-a-half-hour running time may scare off some viewers, but it doesn’t drag. It’s from Apple, so why not think of it as a four-part miniseries?
Suffice it to say that an expansive, passionate and monumental Scorsese film is a major player, even if the last movie that fit that description, “The Irishman,” ended up going 0-for-10 on Oscar night.