Scorsese Talks 'The Language Of Cinema'

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Animated as ever when it comes to the topic of film, director Martin Scorsese delivers the 2013 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities at the Kennedy Center on April 1. (AFP/Getty Images)
Animated as ever when it comes to the topic of film, director Martin Scorsese delivers the 2013 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities at the Kennedy Center on April 1. (AFP/Getty Images)

Martin Scorsese is a legend of a director — and he's also a great film teacher, a man who balances a passion for the medium with a deep knowledge of its history. Delivering this year's installment of the National Endowment for the Humanities' prestigious Jefferson Lecture — a talk he titled "Persistence of Vision: Reading the Language of Cinema" — Scorsese demonstrated his speaking chops as well.

In this excerpt from the lecture, delivered April 1 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and edited for broadcast by Fresh Air, he talks about the early days of cinema, and about one of the films that stuck with him from childhood.

His parents, worried about young Martin's asthma, took him to the theater regularly instead of encouraging him to participate in sports. It was there that he first saw the 1950 film The Magic Box and fell in love with the pictures moving on that screen in a dark room.

Scorsese also talks about the development of cinema and the evolution of motion pictures — from the early photographic experiments of Eadweard Muybridge to the editing style of D.W. Griffith's 1916 film Intolerance.

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The Magic Box (1951) made a lasting impression on Martin Scorsese when he first saw it in 1952. He says this is the film that made him think he could be a filmmaker. "The thing about that film was not just the moving image, but it was the obsession and the passion of the people at that time."

The Magic Box (1951) made a lasting impression on Martin Scorsese when he first saw it in 1952. He says this is the film that made him think he could be a filmmaker. "The thing about that film was not just the moving image, but it was the obsession and the passion of the people at that time."

In 1878, landscape photographer Eadweard Muybridge set up a series of still cameras side by side at a racetrack, rigging them to be triggered by threads stretched across the course as the horse passed. Considered an intermediate stage in cinematography, Muybridge's photographic experiment captured the kinetic movement of a horse at full gallop.

In 1878, landscape photographer Eadweard Muybridge set up a series of still cameras side by side at a racetrack, rigging them to be triggered by threads stretched across the course as the horse passed. Considered an intermediate stage in cinematography, Muybridge's photographic experiment captured the kinetic movement of a horse at full gallop.

D.W. Griffith's The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912) is thought to be the first gangster film.

D.W. Griffith's The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912) is thought to be the first gangster film.

Martin Scorsese On 'Persistence of Vision: Reading the Language of Cinema':

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