Martin Scorsese Defends The Art Of Cinema In New Essay
Art and Experience: Generally speaking, the film news cycle tends to move quickly, covering all the button-pushing topics, casting announcements, and latest development updates, but it’s rare that a moment is taken to discuss the actual artistry of the medium. And I’m not talking about video essays that collect great shots into a sizzle reel, or lists that count down great movies, but rather, extended discourse about the experience of movie watching. So thank goodness for Martin Scorsese, who at least for one moment, will have us all thinking a bit more deeply about the cinema as a true art form.
The legendary director has penned an essay for The Times Literary Supplement, which initially started as a response to their review of “Silence.” In particular, the filmmaker wanted to address critic Adam Mars-Jones‘ assertion that, “In a book reader and writer collaborate to produce images, while a film director hands them down.” Mars-Jones’ argument, it seems, is that cinema tells the viewer how to feel and what to think, where other mediums leave space for the audience to engage with the work. Needless to say, Scorsese disagrees. Here’s an excerpt of what he had to say:
The question of how an artwork is absorbed in time, whether we’re standing before it in a gallery for a matter of minutes, reading it over a matter of weeks, or sitting in a dark theatre and watching it projected on a screen for two hours, is simply a condition, a circumstance, a fact. So yes – when I’m really watching a film from beginning to end, I’m not stopping it to make a phone call and then starting it again. On the other hand, I’m not letting the film override my existence. I’m watching it, experiencing it, and along the way seeing echoes of my own experience illuminated by the film and illuminating it in turn. I’m interacting with the film in countless ways, great and small. Never once have I felt like I just sat there and let a picture wash over me like a tidal wave, and then come back to my senses as the lights came up….
… The greatest filmmakers, like the greatest novelists and poets, are trying to create a sense of communion with the viewer. They’re not trying to seduce them or overtake them, but, I think, to engage with them on as intimate a level as possible. The viewer also “collaborates” with the filmmaker, or the painter. No two viewings of Raphael’s “Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints” will be the same: every new viewing will be different.