While Apple opted to skip all the North American fall film festivals when it comes to Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, the 3.5-hour epic did stop by the BFI London Film Festival where the director took part in a 1.5-hour masterclass detailing his legendary career with moderator Edgar Wright. Considering the sheer breadth of film knowledge from both directors, it’s quite a fascinating conversation, particularly detailing Scorsese’s love for film history as well as a chronological tour through his own filmography and looking toward the future of the medium he’s dedicated his life to.
Speaking about The Wolf of Wall Street, Scorsese noted how his Jordan Belfort biopic was a prescient metaphor for the election of Donald Trump. “Politically, the country, they elected him,” the director said. “It’s about kill, go get the money, lie, do anything you want. You can’t do anything to me. When you say, ‘Listen, I don’t have to pay taxes to a certain extent because I have smart lawyers.’ Right, it’s true. It’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s right. But it’s legal… so that’s the thinking right there in the movie.”
He also touched on the current climate of cinema and how he sees the medium progressing. “I think it’s thrown back now all at you. I don’t know where cinema is going. Why does it have to be the same it was for the past 90 or 100 years? It doesn’t. Do we prefer the ones from the past 90 years? I do, but I’m old. Younger people are gonna see the world around them. You guys are gonna see it in a different way. You’re gonna see it fragmented. You’re gonna see it come from another country, you’re gonna see it in one long take. What does a shot mean now? What does one shot mean? I don’t know anymore. I don’t think it means anything. So therefore it’s a complete… like we took the script of Killers of the Flower Moon and turned it inside out, and that’s what’s happened with cinema now. “
He added, “So it’s really up to everybody, you’re all in the process of a period of reinventing it. It’s quite an extraordinary time and a lot of it has to do with the technology. I mean, if I was able to have digital, or even just video, I would’ve shot Mean Streets in that way. I wouldn’t had to pay for the lights and the camera to a certain extent. Yeah, we would’ve still had to design the lighting but not as difficult, I think. It might give us a sense of freedom with the technologies. What happened with Cassavetes and Shirley Clarke? They shot their pictures, Shadows for example, with a 16mm Éclair. That gave us the impetus, well, you don’t need the Mitchell BNC, you don’t need the giant cranes. It’d be nice for certain shots, but you don’t need it for everything, which means we don’t need the studio.”
“So that’s the freedom you have now. It’s so much freedom that I think you have to rethink what you wanna say and how you wanna say it and use that technology,” said Scorsese. “Ideally, what I hope, is that––I hesitate to use the word––but “serious” film could still be made with this new technology in this new world we’re part of, this even more dangerous new world so that it can be enjoyed by an audience of this size on a big screen. That’s the key. I’m afraid that the other films, the spectaculars or the franchise films will be taking over the theaters. And I always ask the theater owners to create a space where younger people would say they wanna see this new film, which is not a franchise film, in a theater, sharing it with everybody around them, so that they wanna go to the theatre, that it’s something inviting. It doesn’t get you to the point where you say, ‘Well, I could see it at home.’ Because the experience of seeing a film with a lot of people is really still the key, I think. But I’m not sure that could be easily achieved at this point.”
Also featuring discussion of how his films like Mean Streets and Taxi Driver were significantly cut for their television premieres, the box office disappointment of The King of Comedy, his admiration for Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, and much more, watch the full conversation below.