The main intent of the essay was to praise the work of Italian film legend Federico Fellini, but doing so inadvertently led to lamenting over how cinema has been evolving. “The art of cinema is being systematically devalued, sidelined, demeaned and reduced to its lowest common denominator, ‘content,’” wrote Scorsese. He argued that the term “content” was only used before when discussing cinema on a “serious level,” but it’s gradually become appropriated by “people who [have taken] over media companies,” who aren’t very familiar with film history “or [don't] even care enough to think that they should.”
While Scorsese admits to benefitting from streaming services providing more visibility on his movies, he also expressed how algorithms on these platforms “[have] created a situation in which everything is presented to the viewer on a level playing field, which sounds democratic but isn’t.” Scorsese asked, “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?” He’s calling the current movie industry a “mass visual entertainment business” that’s only driven by the amount of profit a movie can generate.
Scorsese continues, “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.”
Head over to Harper’s Magazine‘s website to read the essay.
In case you missed it, Bong Joon-ho has confirmed new films are on track for completion.