January 2024

The Steiny Road to Operadom | Karren LaLonde Alenier | www.scene4.com

The Steiny Road Poet interviews Gertrude Stein
Tender Buttons on Martin Scorsese's film
Killers of the Flower Moon

Karren Alenier

After watching a streaming version of Martin Scorsese's film Killers of the Flower Moon while my seat mate who rented the film groused about how much she hated it, the Steiny Road Poet limped away thinking about the fractured scenes that bumped along without much connection. How cubist these scenes with various points of view and so seemingly unconnected like Stein in Tender Buttons. How post-Modern is this ungodly long movie—come on, three and a half hours with no intermission—where both the poet and the filmmaker address otherness (sometimes blatant racism), violence, beauty and whatever is opposite to these attributions. The result is the following interview between the Steiny Road Poet and Gertrude Stein.

The basic story of Killers of the Flower Moon is that a young man shows up at his uncle's home in Oklahoma during the time when it has become clear that the Osage people have become exceptionally wealthy due to discovery of oil on their desolate reservation. The uncle directs his nephew to capitalize on this wealth but in the meantime the nephew drives people around the town in his sporty roadster, including one Osage woman he falls in love with and marries in 1917. Meanwhile many Osage people die until the fledgling Federal Bureau of Investigation gets involved.

Question: What does the moon have to do with this film?

GS: Only a moon to soup her, only that in the sell never never be the cocups nice be, shatter it they lay.

Egg ear nuts, look a bout. Shoulder. Let it strange, sold in bell next herds.

It was a time when in the acres in late there was a wheel that shot a burst of land and needless are niggers and a sample sample set of old eaten butterflies with spoons, all of it to be are fled and measure make it, make it, yet all the one in that we see where shall not it set with a left and more so, yes there add when the longer not it shall the best in the way when all be with when shall not for there with see and chest how for another excellent and excellent and easy easy excellent and easy express e c, all to be nice all to be no so. All to be no so no so. All to be not a white old chat churner. Not to be any example of an edible apple in.

[excerpt, Tender Buttons DINNER.]

Steiny: OK, so I get it! The Osage people are concerned about the strange land that they were exiled to where during a certain month (a certain moon as the Osage might say) tiny flowers like Johnny-jump-ups and little bluets bloomed "like confetti" but mostly the land was ugly and then that ugly produced the black gold of oil. Then all the old white chat churners wanted a cut of that bursting product and by God, that was the time of the automobile, a machine dependent on petroleum.

Oh! And did you Viewers note that while there were subtitles noting the conversations in Osage language, nothing was ever translated in English? And then there is Stein where English doesn't convey immediate comprehension.

Question: Which two white men become interested in Mollie's wealth?

GS: A white hunter is nearly crazy.

[Tender Buttons A WHITE HUNTER.]

Kindness is not earnest, it is not assiduous it is not revered.

[excerpt, Tender Buttons ROASTBEEF.]

Steiny: So, William K. Hale, a rancher who becomes the town's sheriff, is crazy to get some of the wealth the Osage "Indians" are enjoying. His nephew Ernest Burkhart, who is a basic dumb ass, seems to agree with his uncle about going after the Osage for their money without understanding the consequences.

Question: Who aids Ernest in making his wife Mollie sick?

GS: Aider, why aider why whow, whow stop touch, aider whow, aider stop the muncher, muncher munchers.

A jack in kill her, a jack in, makes a meadowed king, makes a to let.

[Tender Buttons THIS IS THE DRESS, AIDER.]

Steiny: Yes, William K. Hale, nicknamed King of Osage County directs his nephew Ernest Burkhart to man up and wrest Mollie's money away from her. King wants to kill her by having Ernest put a poison in Mollie's insulin shots. Mollie is a diabetic.

Question: How did Mollie's sisters die?

GS: A blaze, a search in between, a cow, only any wet place, only this tune.

Cut a gas jet uglier and then pierce pierce in between the next and negligence. Choose the rate to pay and pet pet very much. A collection of all around, a signal poison, a lack of languor and more hurts at ease.

[excerpt, Tender Buttons SUGAR.]

Steiny: In conspiracies conceived by Hale, Mollie's sister Rena and her husband die in their home when it is bombed and Mollie's sister Anna is shot to death with the help of Ernest's brother and her body is dumped in a ravine.

Question: What does Mollie ask Ernest at the end of the film?

GS: Lovely snipe and tender turn, excellent vapor and slender butter, all the splinter and the trunk, all the poisonous darkening drunk, all the joy in weak success, all the joyful tenderness, all the section and the tea, all the stouter symmetry.

[excerpt, Tender Buttons ROASTBEEF.]

A reason for bed is this, that a decline, any decline is poison, poison is a toe a toe extractor, this means a solemn change. Hanging.

[excerpt, Tender Buttons SAUSAGES.]

Steiny: At the end of the film, Mollie asks Ernest if he was poisoning her and he swears he was not.

Question: How does the FBI get involved?

GS: Please be the beef, please beef, pleasure is not wailing. Please beef, please be carved clear, please be a case of consideration.

Search a neglect. A sale, any greatness is a stall and there is no memory, there is no clear collection.

A satin sight, what is a trick, no trick is mountainous and the color, all the rush is in the blood.

Bargaining for a little, bargain for a touch, a liberty, an estrangement, a characteristic turkey.

[excerpt, Tender Buttons ROASTBEEF.]

Steiny: Desperate to figure out what is happening to her family and community, Mollie goes to Washington, DC, to ask for help. The FBI sends an agent who finds it hard to be taken seriously.

Question: Could the acting be better?

GS: This is no dark custom and it even is not acted in any such a way that a restraint is not spread. That is spread, it shuts and it lifts and awkwardly not awkwardly the centre is in standing.

[excerpt, Tender Buttons A PIANO.]

Steiny: With Robert De Niro as the nefarious uncle William (King) Hale, Leonardo DiCaprio as the hare-brained nephew Ernest Burkhart, and Lily Gladstone as the inscrutable Mollie Burkhart, Scorsese could not have picked a better set of actors. Yes, of course, Scorsese makes a cameo appearance—you, Dear Audience, will recognize him because he is not acting, more he is pontificating which works well for this overly longed for end to this film.

Question: Does it help to read the book?

GS: Book was there, it was there. Book was there. Stop it, stop it, it was a cleaner, a wet cleaner and it was not where it was wet, it was not high, it was directly placed back, not back again, back it was returned, it was needless, it put a bank, a bank when, a bank care.

[excerpt, Tender Buttons BOOK.]

Steiny: The writing credits says it all—Martin Scorsese wrote the screenplay based on David Grann's book Killers of the Flower Moon: An American Crime and the Birth of the FBI. Grann, who writes for The New Yorker, is an author whose books including Flower Moon, have made it to the top of The New York Times best seller lists. Scorsese is known for his harsh, violent films as well as his stylistic touches that keep him from being pigeonholed. The end of this film is worth the wait as he moves from one storytelling mode to something entirely different.



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Karren Alenier is a poet and writer. She writes a monthly column and is a Senior Writer for Scene4. She is the author of The Steiny Road to Operadom: The Making of American Operas. Read her blog.
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