Martin Scorsese on superhero movies: ‘The danger there is what it’s doing to our culture’

GQ did a lengthy profile of Martin Scorsese, partly as he promotes Killers of the Flower Moon. But really, these Scorsese interviews feel like an American icon trying, with all of his might, to stop something that has already happened. The superhero killed the art of filmmaking, and Marty is trying to call attention to how much the industry changed, how the business model has changed for the worse, and how real filmmakers are finding it difficult to make art. This is not new information from Scorsese, he’s been talking about this a lot in recent years, but I think it’s nice that GQ gave him this space to reflect back on his 50-year-plus career and talk about what he’s learned, what he hates, how he never felt like part of his filmmaking community. Some highlights:

His wife, Helen Morris, has lived with Parkinson’s disease for many years. “There’s a lot invested in my personal life at home. And there are only a few people who understand that and are gracious enough to be part of it. And so where we used to have dinner parties and things, that’s all becoming much, much less. And so I’m pretty much alone. And invariably if I’m meeting with people, it’s business.”

He doesn’t want to leave NYC anymore: “I don’t really want to go anywhere,” he said. “So if you want me to come to where you are, well…” His wife was primarily raised in Paris: Maybe they’d like to get back there. “I’d like to go to London,” he said. “But, you know, I’ve been there a lot.” Los Angeles? “Most of my friends are gone,” he said. “They’re all new people. I don’t know them anymore. It’s a new town. It’s a new industry. And it’s nice. It’s just like, I can’t hang out there. Except when I’m with Leo.”

His relationship with the Academy: “I always liked being nominated at the Academy, even though knowing, especially the fact that they didn’t nominate us for Taxi Driver… and Raging Bull, when I didn’t get the Oscar, I understood that that wasn’t my lot in life. But I always said this: Just be quiet and make the movies. You can’t make a movie for an award. Sure, I would’ve liked it, but like, so what? I mean, I had to go on and make pictures.” To this day, Scorsese said, he feels distant from, or not particularly understood by, the Academy. “I don’t live—you have to live in a community that is really an industry. You have to be part of the industry in such a way…. I don’t know if I think like them. I just mind my own business here.”

The old industry is over: “Well, the industry is over. In other words, the industry that I was part of, we’re talking almost, what, 50 years ago? It’s like saying to somebody in 1970 who made silent films, what do you think’s happened?” But, of course, Scorsese has theories. Studios, he said, are not “interested any longer in supporting individual voices that express their personal feelings or their personal thoughts and personal ideas and feelings on a big budget. And what’s happened now is that they’ve pigeonholed it to what they call indies.”

The danger in comic-book movies: But he does see trouble in the glut of franchise and comic book entertainment that currently makes up much of what you can see in a theater. “The danger there is what it’s doing to our culture. Because there are going to be generations now that think movies are only those—that’s what movies are. They already think that. Which means that we have to then fight back stronger. And it’s got to come from the grassroots level. It’s gotta come from the filmmakers themselves. And you’ll have, you know, the Safdie brothers, and you’ll have Chris Nolan, you know what I mean? And hit ’em from all sides. Hit ’em from all sides, and don’t give up. Let’s see what you got. Go out there and do it. Go reinvent. Don’t complain about it. But it’s true, because we’ve got to save cinema…. I do think that the manufactured content isn’t really cinema… what I mean is that, it’s manufactured content. It’s almost like AI making a film. And that doesn’t mean that you don’t have incredible directors and special effects people doing beautiful artwork. But what does it mean? What do these films, what will it give you? Aside from a kind of consummation of something and then eliminating it from your mind, your whole body, you know? So what is it giving you?”

[From GQ]

“Because there are going to be generations now that think movies are only those—that’s what movies are. They already think that.” It’s true. There are at least two generations of film-goers who think the height of emotion is a character dying in a Marvel film, or the sexiest scene is a superhero looking chastely at a ghost or whatever. Again, it’s not about being “against” comic-book movies entirely, but if that’s all that’s on offer, that becomes the language of a generation. And Marty’s right, it’s a real anger to our collective culture and the cultural language of film.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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