It’s been well documented recently how Martin Scorsese feels about Marvel, to a point where the venerable filmmaker even wrote an op-ed for the New York Times. When in London for the press conference for The Irishman, which was the closing film at the capital’s annual film festival, he even broached the subject once more, unprovoked – as he commented with such eloquence about the state of modern cinema. Some MCU fans consider him out of touch, but few seem to have such compassion towards the art-form that personally, we hang on his every word.
“I think we’re redefining cinema now in such a way that it’s not an evolving of cinema but a revolution,” he said, to a room full of awe-inspired journalists – marvelling at the fact Scorsese was sat at the front, next to the film’s leading stars Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.
“The new technology will bring in things that are unimaginable, not only is it something extraordinary and good for narrative films, but it opens up the original conception of what a film is and where it is to be seen has now changed so radically. One thing that should always be protected as much as possible and will always be there, is the communal experience and I think that’s best in the theatre, but homes are becoming theatres too. It’s a major change and I think one has to keep an open mind, there’s no doubt that seeing a film with an audience is really important. There is a problem though, and that’s that you have to make the film. We’ve run out of room in a sense, there was no room for us to make this picture, for many different reasons, but ultimately there was a financial issue in terms of the CGI we did,” Scorsese continued.
“CGI is really an evolution of make-up, you accept certain norms in make-up, you know someone is not that old or not that young, but you accept that as the norm, you accept the illusion so to speak. Having the backing of a company that says they will have no interference, we can make this picture as we want, but it streams, with theatrical distribution prior to that, I figured that’s the chance we take on this particular project. What streaming means and how that’s going to define a new form of cinema I’m not sure. I thought for a while maybe long-form TV is cinema, but it’s not. It simply isn’t. It’s a different viewing experience. But what has to be protected is the singular experience of seeing a picture, ideally with an audience. But there’s room for so many other ways now, and there will be crossovers. But what is a value of a theme park film for example, like Marvel, where theatres become amusement parks, that’s a different experience. It’s not cinema, it’s something else, whether you go for that or not, but it is something else, and we shouldn’t be invaded by it, and so that is a big issue, and we need to allow theatres to show narrative films, and that can be one long take for three hours too, you know. It doesn’t have to have a conventional beginning, middle and end.”
When one genius stops speaking, another starts – and it was somewhat overwhelming to see these three people, sat next to each other. Seeing them all individually is one thing, but together? Eeesh. Because remarkably this was the first time they’ve collaborated on a project, though Pacino admits it wasn’t for the want of trying.
“I’ve known Marty and Bob a very long time, so when Bob came to me and called me about it, it sounded really interesting and the opportunity to work with them was very important to me,” he said, sat back in his shades, looking cool as you like. “For years we almost worked together Marty and I, on different things, and of course Bob and I have worked together and have known each other since we were young actors.”
We decided ourselves to ask a question, intimidating as it may have been to have those three sets of eyes looking back at us, we were intrigued by the notion of reflection, and whether these cinematic icons ever find themselves looking back, while we asked whether they believe this is a film they could have made years ago, or given the fact the film thrives in the notion of reflection, is it better served by them performing the roles now, where they are better placed to fully understand the texture of the narrative?
“It was a movie that evolved,” De Niro said. “Could it have been done earlier? Yes. But the story came out at a certain point, the book came out, that took so many years to evolve, we actually had problems getting the rights to the story, there was a lot of confusion there too which took a bit of time. When you see these movies, especially in the old days that say ’15 years in the making, finally on the screen’, this is what it’s all about, it’s about legal stuff, schedules, actor’s availability, the director, the whole thing, and we’re just happy that we were able to make it. I had a great time, I would’ve shot for another five or six month with Marty.”