Over at weeklystandard.com I wrote about last night’s National Endowment for the Humanities Jefferson Lecture given by director Martin Scorsese. Amazingly he only mentioned one of his own works, Hugo (his homage to Méliès), and briefly at that. The rest of the time, he spoke lovingly of classics like The Red Shoes, Vertigo, even The Musketeers of Pig Alley (the first gangster film). Ninety percent of silent films are gone—just as the earliest plate glass images of Lincoln and the American Civil War ended up getting sold to greenhouses. Nitrate films are flammable and the ones that didn’t go up in smoke were melted into guitar picks and shoe heels. As such, the main thrust of his lecture was the importance of preserving film—as important as preserving books. And to those who say not to bother with movies because film is not life, he says, “Of course it’s not life. It is the invocation of life.” He also loathes the studios’ box office obsession, which began in the early 1980s. What this means, sadly, is he probably won’t be directing Transformers 4.
Photo of manual film projector courtesy of Mattia Luigi Nappi