For much of his expansive new profile in GQ, Martin Scorsese is reflecting on what he doesn’t really care about anymore. Like the Oscars: “I don’t know if I think like them.” Or travel: “I don’t really want to go anywhere.” Even bold experiments in filmmaking: “I tried these things over the years. That time is gone now.”

But because he is Martin Scorsese, a devoted defender of film history and art, he cannot stop caring entirely — and he’s as concerned with the content, franchise-driven state of Hollywood as he’s ever been. In his view, the version of Hollywood he started with in the 1970s is as foreign today as the silent era felt to him at the time. It’s not just the comic book movies — he wants movie theaters to step up and make people want to visit them more often, too — but the franchises still weigh heavily. “The danger there is what it’s doing to our culture,” he tells writer Zach Baron. “Because there are going to be generations now that think movies are only those—that’s what movies are.”

This is a familiar refrain for anyone who’s read Scorsese interviews in recent years, or even noticed when his name trends on Twitter because he insists that Marvel movies are “not cinema,” closer to consumer goods than art. But the reason he keeps coming back to this idea, it seems, is because he wants to lead the charge toward something better. We have to “fight back stronger” against movies as content, he says. “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?”

Sounding more like Jake LaMotta than an 80-year-old who feels like he’s running out of time, Scorsese continues: “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.”

This is the thing that people so often miss when headlines proclaim Scorsese’s war against Marvel: he‘s not just an old man complaining about how the movies have changed, but a true believer in the movies who wants to remind everyone to fight for something better. And as much as he says he’s at a point in his life where he’s not fighting to put things on film, he’s got advice for up and coming filmmakers that could light a fire under anyone. “You gotta rip it out of your skull and your guts,” Scorsese says. “To find out what the hell you really…what do you really feel should be said at this point in life by you? You gotta say something with a movie. Otherwise, what’s the point of making it? You’ve got to be saying something.”

Scorsese’s next film, The Killers of the Flower Moon, opens in theaters on October 20, and is absolutely saying something. As for Nolan and the Safdies, they’re still saying plenty too. Nolan is the odds-on favorite to follow Scorsese as a best director Oscar winner thanks to Oppenheimer, which is cruising toward a phenomenal billion dollar global box office gross. And Josh Safdie, working without his brother Benny (a star of Oppenheimer, as it turns out), had been preparing a new film with Adam Sandler before the strikes shut the industry down. Scorsese produced the Safdies’ breakout 2019 hit Uncut Gems. 

Katey Rich

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