Martin Scorsese's latest project? Saving old films. | EW.com

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Martin Scorsese's latest project? Saving old films.

Martinscorsese_l

Martinscorsese_l
Aside from his day job as arguably America’s greatest movie director, Martin Scorsese spends what little down time he has as one of the world’s most high-profile champions of film restoration. Currently, the man behind Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and The Departed, is in Cannes promoting his World Cinema Foundation’s latest initiative to remaster, preserve, and exhibit neglected foreign classics that might otherwise crumble to dust. We chatted with Scorsese about the project (and his next one – a recently announced biopic of Frank Sinatra).

EW: Why did you start the World Cinema Foundation?

Scorsese: It came out of the success we had over the past 17 or 18 years with the archivists at the [Hollywood] studios getting over 500 films restored and preserved. So we formed a new group to help countries that are underdeveloped, archive their negatives. In many cases, they don’t even have buildings to put the films in. And we felt we could make these films available worldwide so they could be seen.

EW: How have American audiences’ appetite for foreign films changed? Are they more willing to watch imports now?

Scorsese: In the ’60s and ’70s, the generation I was a part of, we were very influenced by films from abroad. They enriched our culture. Films from Western Europe and Russia and Japan. But there’s also an extraordinary cinema coming out of Africa, out of South America, and this is something that would be of great benefit to all of us around the world.

EW: This year, you’ve restored and preserved 1969’s Al Momia from Egypt, 1991’s A Brighter Summer Day from Taiwan, and 1936’s Redes from Mexico. Is the idea to tackle three or four films each year?

Scorsese: Ideally, as many as possible. It depends on how many films are submitted. And right now, there’s only a few people doing this – the restoration, I mean. That’s a bit of a limitation. And they do take some time to do.

Read more from Scorsese and see links to streaming versions of last year’s WCF titles after the jump.

 

EW: Even die-hard movie buffs won’t have heard of most of these films. How did you select the ones you did for this year?

Scorsese: Well, for example, I had been reading about this film Touki Bouki,
a film from the ‘70s from Senegal, so I got a copy of that. And that
opened up a door to another kind of cinema for me. And the Egyptian
film, Al Momia, was one I had been searching for for years! And
I still haven’t seen it! I just introduced it here at Cannes and I
wanted to sit down and watch it, but I had to talk to you! (laughs)

EW: Sorry about that.

Scorsese: I’ve been trying to see a good color print of the film
since the late ‘60s, early ‘70s. It’s a beautiful, haunting film about
time and memory and the debt we owe to the past. A very melancholy and
gorgeous looking picture.

EW: One of the aims of your initiative is to make these films
available to Americans by streaming video (on theauteurs.com and
iTunes) and on DVD through the Criterion Collection and Netflix. Don’t
you think it’s a little ironic that these lost pieces of celluloid are
being given a second life digitally and over the internet?

Scorsese: I guess there is a slight irony to it. But you have to
understand that the only thing that we really know lasts is celluloid. That lasts! We have no idea what’s going to happen with digital.

EW: So you’re still sticking to your old-school guns?

Scorsese: Well, digital is apparently very difficult to store. I
don’t even know what it looks like, quite honestly. Film, right now, is
the only thing we know lasts, so it behooves the people who own these
films to make sure that the original elements are protected and
preserved.

EW: Are you seeing any movies while you’re in Cannes?

Scorsese: I saw [1948’s restored classic] The Red Shoes last night.

EW: And? How many times have you seen that now?

Scorsese: That restoration’s taken years. I don’t know how many
times I’ve seen it! That’s like asking ‘How many times have you
listened to Beethoven’s Seventh?’ It’s a part of your life. But I’d
never seen it like this since maybe when I was 8.

EW: It was just announced that you would be directing a biopic of
Frank Sinatra. Any chance we’ll get to see Leonardo DiCaprio as Old
Blue Eyes?

Scorsese: It’s hard to talk about it because we’ve been working on it for a number of years. [Field of Dreams screenwriter]
Phil Alden Robinson’s been working on the script and it was announced
yesterday. And I literally don’t think anyone’s read the script yet
except myself and Phil. We’re still working on it. So there’s no actor
yet. Sorry, I can’t tell you more than that. 

Djibril Diop Mambety’s Touki Bouki (Senegal, 1973)

Metin Erksan’s Dry Summer (Turkey, 1964)

Kim Ki-Young’s The Housemaid (South Korea, 1960)

Ahmed El Maanouni’s Transes (Morocco, 1981)

addCredit(“Dziekan/Retna Ltd”)

EW: Even die-hard movie buffs won’t have heard of most of these films. How did you select the ones you did for this year?

Scorsese: Well, for example, I had been reading about this film Touki Bouki,a film from the ‘70s from Senegal, so I got a copy of that. And thatopened up a door to another kind of cinema for me. And the Egyptianfilm, Al Momia, was one I had been searching for for years! AndI still haven’t seen it! I just introduced it here at Cannes and Iwanted to sit down and watch it, but I had to talk to you! (laughs)

EW: Sorry about that.

Scorsese: I’ve been trying to see a good color print of the filmsince the late ‘60s, early ‘70s. It’s a beautiful, haunting film abouttime and memory and the debt we owe to the past. A very melancholy andgorgeous looking picture.

EW: One of the aims of your initiative is to make these filmsavailable to Americans by streaming video (on theauteurs.com andiTunes) and on DVD through the Criterion Collection and Netflix. Don’tyou think it’s a little ironic that these lost pieces of celluloid arebeing given a second life digitally and over the internet?

Scorsese: I guess there is a slight irony to it. But you have tounderstand that the only thing that we really know lasts is celluloid. That lasts! We have no idea what’s going to happen with digital.

EW: So you’re still sticking to your old-school guns?

Scorsese: Well, digital is apparently very difficult to store. Idon’t even know what it looks like, quite honestly. Film, right now, isthe only thing we know lasts, so it behooves the people who own thesefilms to make sure that the original elements are protected andpreserved.

EW: Are you seeing any movies while you’re in Cannes?

Scorsese: I saw [1948’s restored classic] The Red Shoes last night.

EW: And? How many times have you seen that now?

Scorsese: That restoration’s taken years. I don’t know how manytimes I’ve seen it! That’s like asking ‘How many times have youlistened to Beethoven’s Seventh?’ It’s a part of your life. But I’dnever seen it like this since maybe when I was 8.

EW: It was just announced that you would be directing a biopic ofFrank Sinatra. Any chance we’ll get to see Leonardo DiCaprio as OldBlue Eyes?

Scorsese: It’s hard to talk about it because we’ve been working on it for a number of years. [Field of Dreams screenwriter]Phil Alden Robinson’s been working on the script and it was announcedyesterday. And I literally don’t think anyone’s read the script yetexcept myself and Phil. We’re still working on it. So there’s no actoryet. Sorry, I can’t tell you more than that. 

Djibril Diop Mambety’s Touki Bouki (Senegal, 1973)

Metin Erksan’s Dry Summer (Turkey, 1964)

Kim Ki-Young’s The Housemaid (South Korea, 1960)

Ahmed El Maanouni’s Transes (Morocco, 1981)

addCredit(“Dziekan/Retna Ltd”)

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