The western is, before being a genre, a ritual. Cinematographic genres, all of them, presuppose a narrative scheme, manner and even tone of voice that, in some way, deliver to the audience half of the score already read. What remains, the other half, is what the film constructs in collusion with a viewer who understands originality not as something completely new but as a variation of a predetermined scheme. You attend a different spectacle, but always from the certainty of a primal identity as a stable place of recognition. And here, Western cinema, from the extravagance of its approach with outlaw cowboys and Indians who have nothing to do with India, is king. It is myth, it is legend, it is liturgy. Or, at least until now, it was. Martin Scorsese arrives with ‘The Moon Killers’ to refute every argument that has founded the western from full consciousness of its majesty and its delirium, from an eternity that, definitively, ends. It sounds apocalyptic and, in truth, it is.
‘The Moon Killers It is, of course, a masterpiece. And it is so because of the depth and wisdom with which it dialogues with the tradition of the tradition while refuting each of the arguments that inform it. It is ecstasy of the Western genre with the same clarity that it proposes its complete abolition. But this is just the theory. In practice, the three long hours through which the film runs seem like a prodigy of raw beauty, of elegant contradiction, of sad cruelty. How is it possible that two people who love each other end up so close to death? How can we admit that the greatest and most spectacular of landscapes simultaneously shelters the most sinister of injustices? How have we allowed so much injustice and, worst of all, how have we been able to glorify horror? As rarely before, Sorsese manages to combine the rules that have built classic cinema to deliver them to the viewer naked as proof perhaps of the greatest of failures. And that, whether you like it or not, excites and, if necessary, embarrasses.
The story is known. Based on the text of David Neighbor (not a novel), the story of the Osage Indian people is told, who, at the time, were designated as God’s chosen ones. From the god of capitalism. His lands in Oklahoma were pure oil. And that, in the golden age of growing urbanism after the Great War, was objectively the best proof of his divinity. Immediately afterwards, and with the close example of the Tulsa massacre where the whites decided to put an end to the flourishing black economy, what happened happened. Nothing good. The film tells of the investigation carried out by the nascent FBI to clarify the thirty murders of Native Americans that went unpunished for too long.
‘The assassins of the moon‘does not want to be solely an exercise in memory or resistance to an incomprehensible oblivion. Although it is. In reality, his scope of exploration and his very desire is not so much political (that too) but much deeper. Scorsese addresses the need to tell the story in enormous format as an ethical imperative, which is also an aesthetic one. Organized in two parts, the first looks more like a forensic study than a tragedy. The deaths are described, the corpses are counted, the vulgar everyday life of the brutal is shredded… And all this is done with a coldness very close to the state of shock. Very slowly. The film imposes on itself a serious, serious, heavy, hard, unforgettable rhythm. So that no one gets lost, so that no one forgets.
In the second part, the classic machinery of investigation, trial and conviction comes into operation. But always respecting the slow movement of the inconceivable, the unspeakable, the ineffable. The final coda is one of those that one takes home and carefully places in the best place in film memories. The director, suddenly, dispenses with the image so that it is the voice (only the voice) that narrates, the music that signals and the sounds that shape the memory the elements that place the cinema on the other side.