After doubling-down on his stance against the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the homogenization of blockbusters in general, film icon Martin Scorsese warned against the current trend of trusting algorithms, formulas, and business calculations over artistic expression.
While receiving the Kirk Douglass Award at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, Martin Scorsese spoke mostly about his love of film before delivering a warning against treating the artistic process like a utilitarian exercise.
“I realize that commitment and dedication to the art form are always rare so, you know, when you see it, this incredible commitment and dedication, please don’t take it for granted,” Scorsese told the audience. “Today, it’s a new world, of course, and we have to be extra vigilant. Some actually believe that these qualities that I’m talking about can be replaced by algorithms and formulas and business calculations but please remember it’s all an illusion because there’s no substitute for individual or artistic expression as Kirk Douglas knew and as he expressed through his long film career.”
Throughout the past few weeks, Scorsese’s critics (primarily those in the pro-MCU crowd) have been denouncing the director as an elitist. Actor Leo DiCaprio, however, painted a different picture while presenting him with the award, describing as a gracious man who always appreciates the artistic merits of those working under him.
“One of the most remarkable things about Martin Scorsese — besides being one of our greatest filmmakers — is the generosity that he exudes to everybody on set, from his creative team to his crew and especially the actors that he works with,” said DiCaprio. “He treats each and every one of us as a real collaborator and that is not easily said. You can say you’re a collaborator but Marty truly wants to know what you have to say as an artist. These collaborations have been forged through the years.”
Last month, Scorsese stoked the ire of millions of Marvel fans when he said the MCU movies were more like theme park rides than cinematic experiences.“I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema,” Scorsese told Empire Magazine. “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.”
After mounting criticism and charges of elitism, Scorsese penned a lengthy and heartfelt op-ed in The New York Times where he clarified his position, lamenting how utilitarian the industry has become.
“That’s the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption,” wrote Scorsese. “In the past 20 years, as we all know, the movie business has changed on all fronts. But the most ominous change has happened stealthily and under cover of night: the gradual but steady elimination of risk. Many films today are perfect products manufactured for immediate consumption. Many of them are well made by teams of talented individuals. All the same, they lack something essential to cinema: the unifying vision of an individual artist. Because, of course, the individual artist is the riskiest factor of all.”