Monday, February 15, 2010

Finding Inspiration in Preservation

"Film is history. With every foot of film lost, we lose a link to our culture, to the world around us, to each other, and to ourselves." -Martin Scorsese

To most filmgoers, Martin Scorsese is known for two things - his incredible body of work as a filmmaker and his trademark bushy eyebrows. To cinephiles, Scorsese is an icon for those things and his work as a film preservationist. The mass audience got a taste of this during his acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes in January.

/Film excerpted part of his speech: "As far as I’m concerned, making films and preserving them are the same thing. In this room, none of us who make films and watch them would be here without the people who came here before us. Whether it’s DeMille, Hitchcock, the Senegalese filmmaker [Ousmane] Sembène, Kurosawa or John Ford, de Sica, Bergman, Satiajit Ray, we’re all walking in their footsteps every day, all of us… [DeMille] made these pictures for us, the audience, so we could live in their wonders. He was there from the beginning, when films were born. He helped create the narrative style and language that we use today, shaped film as an art form, as a business, and as a mythical landscape. He led the way for all of us. When we look at his films, or Hitchcock or Kubrick, we all remember that motion pictures are part of a continuum, a living, ongoing history. And for me to be a part of all that, well… I thank you, and I thank you so much." The full video of his speech can be found here.

Scorsese's sheer knowledge of the history of film is quite outstanding and if you can get your hands on a copy of A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies, it's a good way to spend (nearly) four hours.

That Scorsese's immense passion for cinema has lent himself to become a leading force in the drive to preserve film should be no surprise. In 1990, he founded The Film Foundation, which has assisted with the preservation and restoration of over 500 films that might've otherwise deteriorated and disappeared from the pantheon of cinema. They've worked with organizations such as the Academy Film Archive and the National Film Preservation Foundation, and recent films they've worked to preserve include Paths of Glory and The Red Shoes. The impressive list of filmmakers that make-up the foundation's board of directors include, along with Scorsese, Woody Allen, Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Clint Eastwood, Peter Jackson, Robert Redford and Steven Spielberg.

With an ensemble like that under the leadership of Scorsese, the flickering light at the end of the cinematic tunnel can only get brighter.

This post is part of "For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon," which is running Feb. 14-21 on various film blogs. More information about the blogathon can be found here, and you can donate to the National Film Preservation Foundation here.


Kendra said...

Great post! I have to say I'm not a huge fan of his films on the whole, but his dedication to film preservation is so inspiring. I remember him giving a similar speech about it at the Oscars about 5 years ago. I just love people who love movies and it's so clear that he does.


Joe Thompson said...

Thank you for posting about Martin Scorsese, a person who has done a lot for film preservation.

The Siren said...

His commitment to preservation also extends to a passion for getting people acquainted with the whole of American film history; so many people won't watch anything black or white, for example. Scorsese tells people to take a look, and they do. Thanks so much for this tribute.

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