Cinema is not ‘comfort food,’ Scorsese warns Covid-hit festival

In a blistering New York Times op-ed last November, Martin Scorsese said movie theatres are the place ‘where the filmmaker intended her or his picture to be seen,’ and warned superhero movies were crowding auteurs off the big screen. — AFP pic

LOS ANGELES, Sept 16 — Martin Scorsese warned that cinema is becoming “marginalised and devalued” as a “form of comfort food” during the coronavirus pandemic, as he addressed the Toronto film festival yesterday.

Scorsese, no stranger to controversy after last year slamming popular superhero blockbusters as “not cinema”, spoke as movie theatres remain closed in major US cities including Los Angeles and New York.

Toronto, North America’s largest film festival, is taking place mainly online this year, along with a handful of drive-in and limited capacity indoor screenings.

In a short video introducing the event’s annual career achievement gala, Scorsese praised the festival for going ahead at all.

“The fact that film festivals are continuing to happen — improvising, adapting, making it all work somehow — is very moving to me,” said the Oscar-winning Goodfellas director.

“Because in the press and the popular culture, what’s happening… it’s becoming sadly common to see cinema marginalised and devalued, and in this situation categorised sort of as a form of comfort food.”

Millions around the world have spent the past few months locked at home due to the pandemic, with many binge-watching television and films from their living rooms.

In a blistering New York Times op-ed last November, Scorsese said movie theatres are the place “where the filmmaker intended her or his picture to be seen,” and warned superhero movies were crowding auteurs off the big screen.

“To celebrate its very existence is all the more important and necessary… this remarkable art form has always been and always will be much more than a diversion,” added Scorsese in the video aired yesterday.

“Cinema, film, movies, at its best, is a source of wonder and inspiration.”


British acting royalty Anthony Hopkins and Kate Winslet received career awards yesterday at the virtual gala from Toronto, where both are promoting acclaimed new films that could land them their second Oscars.

From her home in England, Winslet said making 19th-century lesbian romance Ammonite was “a gift,” with her role as a pioneering paleontologist a test of her acting chops.

“I love playing parts that make me feel terrified and parts that make me feel incredible joy,” said Winslet, who won the best actress Oscar for 2008’s The Reader and has six other nods including for global phenomenon Titanic.

Her latest, “quiet, intimate” film, sees Winslet’s fossil-hunting heroine bond with a grieving mother played by Saoirse Ronan.

Hopkins, 82, whose heartwrenching dementia drama got a second airing in Toronto after rave reviews at January’s Sundance festival, joked: “I’m astonished that I’m still in work — still working at my age.”

He described The Father, which sees French playwright Florian Zeller make a directorial film debut adapting his own award-winning 2012 play, “deeply intense and deeply disturbing.”

The film charts Hopkins’ character’s battle with paranoia, memory loss and contradictory realities, with the Welsh luminary bringing humor and pathos to a performance alongside Olivia Colman as his long-suffering daughter.

Hopkins won best actor at the 1992 Oscars for his unforgettable turn as serial killer Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, and has since been nominated four more times.

Both Winslet and Hopkins devoted much of their acceptance speeches, projected into an empty Toronto movie theatre, to thanking emergency workers.

Chloe Zhao, the director of early Oscar contender Nomadland, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival last weekend, was also recognised for her work.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs until Sunday. — AFP