In a new essay for Harper’s Magazine, legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese doesn’t pull any punches as he has some harsh criticisms for the state of the movie industry. Titled “Il Maestro”, the article focus is on director Federico Fellini but dives into so much more especially the current state of streamers and his issues with their effect on the movie going experience.
“As recently as 15 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,’” Scorsese writes. “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.”
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Scorsese does mention how he has benefited from places like Netflix that produced and distributed his gangster pic The Irishman and his upcoming Killers of the Flower Moon at Apple, but says film has been devalued by them and that they ultimately turned film into “content.” He goes deeper into the idea of content analogy by saying it is the “business term for all moving images.”
He goes on to say “We can’t depend on the movie business, such as it is, to take care of cinema. In the movie business, which is now the mass visual entertainment business, the emphasis is always on the word ‘business,’ and value is always determined by the amount of money to be made from any given property — in that sense, everything from Sunrise to La Strada to 2001 is now pretty much wrung dry and ready for the ‘Art Film’ swim lane on a streaming platform.”
Scorsese finishes up his argument by warning fans of cinema they “can’t depend on the movie business, such as it is, to take care of cinema.” The Departed director is not afraid of stirring the pot when he sees something that he feels is having a profound impact on the movie-going experience. In 2019, he caught plenty of heat when he implied that Marvel superhero films are not cinema. The remarks led to an industry wide discussion on what is and isn’t cinema that everyone weighing in including Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn giving his opinion. Whether these remarks will have the same impact remains but what is certain is when Scorsese speaks about film, everyone is all ears.
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