Martin Scorsese is back to speak about what is “cinema” and what is not in a new op-ed published Tuesday in Harper’s magazine. In 2019, Scorsese drew a lot of criticism when he claimed that Marvel movies shouldn’t be considered cinema, comparing the superhero movies more to a theme park rather than a genuine cinematic experience. Despite the backlash, Scorsese stood by his comments, explaining that Marvel movies were simply not for him.
With his new editorial, Martin Scorsese opens up more about his feelings on what the state of cinema has become. He doesn’t mention Marvel specifically, the Taxi Driver director laments how the term “content” has changed significantly over the past several years, evolving to include “all moving images” such as a cat video, a Super Bowl commercial, and even a superhero sequel. As Scorsese explains:
“As recently as fifteen years ago, the term ‘content’ was heard only when people were discussing the cinema on a serious level, and it was contrasted with and measured against ‘form.’ Then, gradually, it was used more and more by the people who took over media companies, most of whom knew nothing about the history of the art form, or even cared enough to think that they should.”
Admitting that he’s benefitted from this very process as a filmmaker, Scorsese also expresses his concern that this is affecting the art of cinema.
“On the one hand, this has been good for filmmakers, myself included. On the other hand, it has created a situation in which everything is presented to the viewer on a level playing field, which sounds democratic but isn’t. If further viewing is ‘suggested’ by algorithms based on what you’ve already seen, and the suggestions are based only on subject matter or genre, then what does that do to the art of cinema?”
Scorsese goes on to add that linking the theatrical experience to streaming platforms is changing the importance cinema has in our culture. Explaining that “we can’t depend on the movie business” to take care of cinema, the Goodfellas helmer also stresses that it’s up to those who truly love and respect cinema, including himself, to make it known to the industry that movies from iconic filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick and Ingmar Berman are works of art not to be exploited.
“Those of us who know the cinema and its history have to share our love and our knowledge with as many people as possible. And we have to make it crystal clear to the current legal owners of these films that they amount to much, much more than mere property to be exploited and then locked away. They are among the greatest treasures of our culture, and they must be treated accordingly.”
As with the Marvel situation, Scorsese’s words will likely conjure up some divided reactions on social media. Regardless of how many people may or may not agree, Scorsese is clearly remaining steadfast with his opinion. You can read The King of Comedy filmmaker’s full editorial at Harper’s Magazine.