Martin Scorsese didn’t always make long pictures. Some of his best — Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, to say nothing of his actual short films like The Big Shave or It’s Not Just You, Murray! — don’t take too long to watch. He’s also, especially in the last couple decades, made really, bewilderingly long movies. His latest, Killers of the Flower Moon, runs nearly two whole hours longer than another of his finest, 1985’s After Hours. Some may feel that’s excessive. But is it? Is it too long in an age of bingeing entire seasons in one fell swoop? That’s the argument Scorsese himself is making when people carp about its length (which is 206 minutes, by the way).
“People say it’s three hours, but come on, you can sit in front of the TV and watch something for five hours,” Scorsese said during an interview with Hindustan Times (in a bit teased out by Entertainment Weekly). “Also, there are many people who watch theatre for 3.5 hours. There are real actors on stage, you can’t get up and walk around. You give it that respect, give cinema some respect.”
Granted, modern moviegoers should be used to seeing long, long movies. Oppenheimer was a mere half hour shorter than Flower Moon. Avatar 2 ran over three hours and still gobbled up a fortune. Comic book movies are now regularly longer than Scorsese’s Goodfellas, which runs a very filling 146 minutes and should be the benchmark by which we measure which long movies are too long.
Flower Moon was financed in part by Apple TV+, and though it will stream at some point, they’re actually giving it a proper theatrical release. Scorsese doesn’t think people should wait to watch it on their couch.
“In the case of Killers of the Flower Moon, it should be seen on the big screen,” he said. “Are we intending to make a blockbuster? No, we’re making a movie, which should watched on the big screen. Other pictures I made? Maybe not. Sometimes, it’s the strength of the picture too, if it plays well on a smaller screen, that’s interesting. Killers could play on a small screen, but in order to truly immerse yourself, you should take out the time.”
Killers of the Flower Moon hits theaters on October 20.