Legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese this evening accepted the Honorary Patronage of the University Philosophical Society of Trinity College, writes Brian O'Flynn.
The event saw students queuing for hours to be part of an intimate audience with the cinematic legend.
President of the University Philosophical Society Matthew Nuding described Scorsese as “one of the most significant and influential filmmakers in cinematic history”.
Scorsese spent nearly an hour and a half with 'the Phil', discussing politics, his cinematic achievements, his relationships with long-standing collaborators Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio, the poisonous influence of celebrity culture and capitalism on the film industry, and the future of filmmaking.
Scorsese has made a total of five feature films with DiCaprio, and eight with DeNiro, not including The Irishman, an upcoming Scorsese/DeNiro collaboration slated for a 2019 release, in which DeNiro will allegedly be aged down using CGI to look 30 years old.
When asked what keeps him coming back to these actors, Scorsese replied “I do find comfort comes from being able to relax with an actor”, and described how it takes time to build up that level of comfort.
With DeNiro and DiCaprio, Scorsese said he “developed that trust”.
Of DiCaprio, the director said “I knew how far I could push him”, and praised his time with DiCaprio making Wolf of Wall Street as “a wonderful experience”.
Scorsese’s iconic work Taxi Driver notably dealt with themes of political corruption, paranoia and alienation.
When asked if he saw the same negativity in the current political era of Trump and right-wing populism, the filmmaker acknowledged that “Taxi Driver sadly, and tragically, still has a presence”.
“It’s a scary time”, he admitted of the Trump era.
Referring to the rise of global terrorism, Mr Scorsese said that the aftermath of the 2003 Iraq invasion "had created thousands and thousands of Travis Bickle."
"They say they have nothing to lose," he added.
Bickle is the depressed loner at the centre of Taxi Driver who is drawn to violence in his disgust against the decadence and sleaze he perceives around him.
The director went on to discuss the film industry and its future saying the work of young filmmakers inspires him, and that he enjoys their “excitement and enthusiasm.”
Scorsese is a notorious traditionalist and is known to favour shooting on film instead of in digital formats like most contemporary filmmakers.
Surprisingly however, Scorsese sang the praises of modern innovations such as 3D and virtual reality, gushing enthusiastically about his experience of seeing a VR film in Taipei and about the potential of these new methods:
“I really like 3D. If I could do every movie in 3D from now on, I would!
“It’s unlimited now what can be done.”
On a more negative note, the moviemaking behemoth lamented the toxic, corrupting influence of celebrity culture on the artistry of film, and how media saturation has compounded this effect.
“It’s all mixed up. It’s putting the cart before the horse, really,” he said of the cult of celebrity.
“It’s always been with us in a way but with the media it’s different now.”
He went on to dismiss celebrity culture as “a very serious illness” and condemned it as “a great danger to film”.
In a similar vein, Scorsese criticised the greed of Hollywood nowadays, and how it leads to a lower quality of film being produced.
“Money is so important in these productions”, he said, pointing to the “comic-book stuff” that has taken over cinema, and the success of big-budget Marvel movies.
“It’s not for me”, he declared, describing the trend as “limiting”.
Scorsese’s criticism of Hollywood’s preference for high-grossing crowd-pleasers is extremely relevant given the news that broke just this week about Netflix’s acquisition of his upcoming project The Irishman.
The film was originally bought by Paramount, but when Scorsese’s Silence only made $7 million at the box office, after costing approximately $46 million to make, Paramount jumped ship.
Netflix now owns the global theatrical and streaming rights for the project, and look set to release it as a Netflix Original.
The streaming giant is quickly replacing traditional cinema. Scorsese is previously quoted by The Associated Press as saying:
‘‘Cinema is gone. The cinema I grew up with and that I’m making, it’s gone. The theatre will always be there for that communal experience, there’s no doubt. But what kind of experience is it going to be?”
Presumably, traditionalist Scorsese is none too happy about being forced to hand over the rights of his new project to the streaming service.
Mentions of this controversy were conspicuously absent from his conversation with 'the Phil'.
Scorsese graciously accepted his Gold Medal of Honorary Patronage from Phil president Matthew Nuding and received a standing ovation from the star struck audience.
Over the weekend, Mr Scorsese will also receive the Irish Film and Television Academy's John Ford award during a special ceremony in Dublin.
President Michael D Higgins will present the honour.
Scorsese said an award created in celebration of "John Ford's artistry and prestige has great personal significance for me".