Martin Scorsese has said that streaming services are 'devaluing' films by reducing them to ‘content’.
In an essay about Italian director Federico Fellini, who made such cinematic landmarks as La strada and La Dolce Vita, for Harper’s Magazine, the veteran director said that while he has worked with Netflix and Apple in recent years, including on his film The Irishman, he was concerned about the impact streaming was having on cinema.
"The art of cinema is being systematically devalued, side-lined, demeaned, and reduced to its lowest common denominator," the Taxi Driver and Goodfellas director wrote, adding that the streaming business model sees film as "content."
"As recently as 15 years ago, the term ‘content’ was heard only when people were discussing the cinema on a serious level, and it was contrasted with and measured against ‘form,’" he wrote.
"Then, gradually, it was used more and more by the people who took over media companies, most of whom knew nothing about the history of the art form, or even cared enough to think that they should."
Scorsese wrote that under the culture of new delivery platforms, "all moving images" are seen as equal, "a David Lean movie, a cat video, a Super Bowl commercial, a superhero sequel, a series episode".
He also bemoaned how algorithms are being used to direct viewers to new work and that people are now treated as "consumers" and art is devalued.
"Curating isn't undemocratic or 'elitist,’ a term that is now used so often that it’s become meaningless. It’s an act of generosity - you’re sharing what you love and what has inspired you," Scorsese said, praising platforms such as Criterion and Mubi.
He added: "We can’t depend on the movie business, such as it is, to take care of cinema… Those of us who know the cinema and its history have to share our love and our knowledge with as many people as possible… They are among the greatest treasures of our culture, and they must be treated accordingly."
In 2019, Scorsese was both attacked and praised for claiming that Marvel superhero films were "not cinema" and comparing the franchise to "theme parks".