Michels on Scorsese

I’m currently working to interview Martin Scorsese for my new documentary, “The Cinema of Christ: A Journey of Faith and Film.” The film explores the growing trend of church groups that are meeting in movie theaters.

The first part of my campaign to interview Scorsese for the film was an email to his agent. Here’s an excerpt from the email:

“When I first read Scorsese on Scorsese, I was struck by this passage: ‘The first Mass I attended, in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, just after I entered the Catholic school, made a deep impression, with its pageantry and theatre, and all those old Italians singing hymns in Latin.’ According to the book, Scorsese saw strong similarities between what he saw at the cinema and what he was experiencing at his church. Once he decided not to become a priest, he put all of his energy into another religion: film.

When I recently discovered there is a growing trend of start-up churches meeting in movie theaters, I realized that even the physical division between the two no longer exists. This begs the exploration of what church and cinema actually deliver audiences and worshipers and whether they are as profoundly similar as they appear to be.

I’ve been watching Scorsese’s films for many years. I can’t think of a better person to interview about the thin line between church and cinema. We’ve seen this theme over and over in his films. I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t like to explore from this angle as well.”

This other quote from the book, illustrates my point far better than I could:

“I’d always wanted to make a film of the life of Christ, ever since I first saw Him portrayed on the screen in The Robe when I was eleven years old. I was an altar boy, and I was taken by our diocesan priest on a little field trip to the Roxy. He hated the film for its absurdity, but I’ll never forget the magic of walking down the lobby and getting a glimpse of that gigantic CinemaScope screen for the first time. And when I heard the music in stereophonic sound, it became confused in my mind with the Gregorian Chant for the Mass of the Dead, at which I used to serve every Saturday morning at 10:30.

I remember once an old Italian man of about ninety years of age had died, and his widow, who was about ninety-three, attacked the coffin and knocked it down in her grief, and we altar boys had to help her. So, with the confusion of these experiences in my mind, the whole film became a holy experience, and the first image of Jesus carrying the cross in the street was very shocking to me. The first images of Christ that I recall were the plaster statues and crucifixes in St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral. The strongest impression was of a human being who had been tortured and beaten, then put on the cross, and this was someone you would have loved, who had been a very good person. I remember being taken to a Mass and wondering why my parents had never taken me before. It was so impressive, with different coloured vestments for the different Masses: white and gold, or green and gold. I guess I made the association between going to the cathedral and to the movie theatre at an early age. In fact, as kids we used to joke about Mass being the same show every day.”

If you haven’t read Scorsese on Scorsese, I encourage you to do so. Check back to the website on future updates about Scorsese and the film.

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