Martin Scorsese is in the news a lot these days. He’s got a new movie coming out, The Irishman, which is a big event for the 76 year old director, but mostly people are talking about his comments that Marvel movies are not “cinema”. Here is the exact quote, probably taken out of context:
“I don’t see them. I tried, you know? … Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”
The comment sounds pretty much like anyone’s grandfather, and the fact that it sparked a global debate is what I find interesting. We’re talking about words here, and their power, and that is something that is very relevant today, regardless of what you think about superhero movies. The term “cinema” (and I mean “term”) meant something different during Scorsese’s time then it did before him, or now. When he learned the term it was the time of the New Wave, the Cahier du Cinema, independent filmmaking, the great revolution in American film that seperated flickers from movies, and movies from cinema. It was a classification that had a distinct definition to it, and most of us grew up watching cinema, learning from the greats before us.
Simply put there was no such thing as CG. It wasn’t part of cinema, or movies, or flickers. Claymation or animation was the closest thing that you had probably, and most movies were considered cheap, except for maybe Fantasia, which I bet Scorsese wouldn’t consider cinema either. Cinema to Scorsese meant live action humans creating a story through the visual medium of film that changed the perception of the viewer in a completely realistic manner. I know because he speaks about it in Scorsese on Scorsese.
One thing to note is Scorsese is one of the biggest film theorist and historians we have. His opinions matters simply put since he can see the whole scope of the history of film. For modern film goers, Marvel films might be some of the only films they’ve ever seen, and they take offense to this type of comments, but in reality this type of CG blockbuster is a mere ten minutes into the 24 hour day that makes up the history of filmmaking. Like it or not, I understand Scorsese’s point, and while a bit rude, I can understand what he means. It’s also just his opinion folks.
Again though what is most fascinating is the word “cinema” and the meaning, or change of meaning it is going through. I think that some of the Marvel films are certainly cinematic and deserve to be called cinema as much as Citizen Kane or Taxi Driver. I just find it amazing how people can argue so violently about the words they use and not see that the meaning is the same. I see both sides of the fence, and think this is a prime example of how words can have power, and how that power can change or grow over a generation.
News, president, war, Wall Street, racism, loan, news, socialism, Russia, fact, there are a lot of words I feel have taken on different feelings since I learned them. Their meanings might stay the same, as in their definitions, but the feeling behind it, the “terms” in which we use them change a lot. I came across this documentary that Scorsese did in the 70’s when the students were revolting in disagreement to the war. It’s fascinating to see, to hear the people’s language and think about our present condition here in the United States. It’s amazing sometimes to see how far we haven’t come, or how we just have changed the words we use for the same problems.