Schrader Muses On Marvel As Cinema
During the pandemic, a small social media explosion happened in film discussion circles in relation to comments by Martin Scorsese about what constitutes cinema and whether the Marvel movies qualify per se.
While various other filmmakers have weighed in, one filmmaker who has finally joined the discussion is also one of Scorsese’s most famous collaborators – Paul Schrader.
If anyone is qualified to discuss cinema it’s Schrader who made his name penning the screenplays for plenty of films considered true ‘cinema’ from Peter Weir’s “The Mosquito Coast” and Brian DePalma’s “Obsession” to four of Scorsese’s own like “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” “The Last Temptation of Christ” and “Bringing Out the Dead”.
He’s also made a strong name for himself as a writer/director with iconic films like “American Gigolo,” “Cat People,” “Affliction,” “Auto Focus” and the Oscar-nominated “First Reformed”.
Unlike Scorsese, Schrader tells GQ that he thinks the designation “cinema” can encompass more things than people think. He then discusses the rise of comic book films and how that has supplanted the more serious issue films of the era he and Scorsese found success in:
“No, they [superhero movies] are cinema. So is that cat video on YouTube, it’s cinema. 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. And when 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 himself is becoming more auteur-driven again in recent years with his new film “The Card Counter” having its world premiere in Venice to rave reviews.