Martin Scorsese pens an inspiring, spiritual, and comprehensive essay for The New York Review of Books called "The Persisting Vision: Reading the Language of Cinema." He meditates on the history of cinema, its impact on the humanities, and his own personal connections to different aspects of film. Of course, Scorsese's activism for film preservation is a beating subtext throughout the essay.
The whole thing is worth a read, but we have selected some key highlights from the original piece.
- And I realize now that the warmth of that connection with my family and with the images on the screen gave me something very precious. We were experiencing something fundamental together. We were living through the emotional truths on the screen, often in coded form, which these films from the 1940s and 1950s sometimes expressed in small things: gestures, glances, reactions between the characters, light, shadow. These were things that we normally couldn't discuss or wouldn't discuss or even acknowledge in our lives. And that's actually part of the wonder. Whenever I hear people dismiss movies as "fantasy" and make a hard distinction between film and life, I think to myself that it's just a way of avoiding the power of cinema. Of course it's not life—it's the invocation of life, it's in an ongoing dialogue with life.
- The desire to make images move, the need to capture movement, seemed to be with us 30,000 years ago in the cave paintings at Chauvet--in one image a bison appears to have multiple sets of legs, and perhaps that was the artist's way of creating the impression of movement. I think this need to recreate movement is a mystical urge. It's an attempt to capture the mystery of who and what we are, and then to contemplate that mystery.
- All beginnings are unfathomable--the beginning of human history, the beginning of cinema.