Paul Schrader, who wrote many Martin Scorsese classics, disagrees with Scorsese on whether Marvel Studios’ films count as cinema.
Paul Schrader, the screenwriter behind such Martin Scorsese classics as Raging Bull and Taxi Driver and the writer-director of the upcoming film The Card Counter, disagrees with Scorsese on the subject of whether the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s films count as “cinema.”
This does not mean Schrader is a fan of superhero movies, but more than he has a more expansive view of what counts as cinema — from his perspective, “a cat video on YouTube” is just as much cinema as any blockbuster or Hollywood classic. The rise of superhero movies into becoming the center of pop culture is something he has some interesting thoughts on, telling GQ, “It is kind of surprising that what we used to regard as adolescent entertainment, comic books for teenagers, has become the dominant genre economically. Each generation is informed, and informed by literature, or informed by theater, or informed by live television, or informed by film school. Now we have a generation that’s been informed by video games and manga. It’s not that the filmmakers have changed, it’s that the audiences have changed.”
Where Schrader agrees with Scorsese is that it’s become harder to get more serious movies made and even harder to get them seen by a mass audience: “[W]hen the audiences don’t want serious movies, it’s very, very hard to make one. When they do, when they ask you, ‘What should I think about women’s lib, gay rights, racial situations, economic inequality?’ and the audience is interested in hearing about these issues, well then you can make those movies. And we have. Particularly in the fifties, and sixties, and seventies, we’re making them one or two a week about social issues. And they were financially successful because audiences wanted them. Then something changed in the culture, the center dropped out. Those movies are still being made, but they’re not in the center of the conversation anymore.”
Schrader connects this shift in the film industry with shifts in the general culture away from mass consensus and towards competing niche audiences, saying “There’s no Walter Cronkite, there’s no Johnny Carson, and there’s no Hollywood studio movies. The mass center has gone. What happens then is people retreat to the periphery. So you have the Comic-Con world, or you have the X or Y, Z world, and it’s very hard to bring these people together again. That has been lost culturally. It’s not going to ever come back.”
Schrader’s new film The Card Counter, starring Oscar Isaac, comes to theaters on September 10.
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