Martin Scorsese says streaming services are ‘devaluing’ films by reducing them to ‘content’ in blistering essay

Isobel Lewis
·2-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Martin Scorsese has claimed that streaming services are “devaluing” cinema by reducing films to “content”.

In an essay about Italian director Federico Fellini for Harper’s Magazine, the revered director said that while he has worked with Netflix and Apple in recent years, he worried about the impact they were having on cinema.

Scorsese claimed that “the art of cinema is being systematically devalued, sidelined, demeaned, and reduced to its lowest common denominator” by the streaming system which sees film “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.”

Netflix
Netflix

Under the new system, Scorsese wrote, “all moving images” are seen as equal, “a David Lean movie, a cat video, a Super Bowl commercial, a superhero sequel, a series episode”.

The director added that in relying on algorithms to introduce viewers to new projects, they are solely treated as “consumers” and art is devalued.

Read more: The Queen’s Gambit, Emily in Paris and Bridgerton are all the same: colourful, people-pleasing TV

“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 continued: “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 faced backlash for claiming that the Marvel films were “not cinema” and comparing the franchise to “theme parks”.