2013 jefferson lecture

The desire to make images move, the need to capture movement seems to be with us 30,000 years ago in the cave paintings of Chauvet. … [T]he bison appears to have multiple sets of legs. Maybe that was the artist’s way of creating the impression of movement. I think this need to recreate movement is a mystical urge. It’s an attempt to capture the mystery of who and what we are and then to think about, to contemplate that mystery.
—  Martin Scorsese in his 2013 NEH Jefferson Lecture, “Persistence of Vision: Reading the Language of Cinema.” Fresh Air excerpted the lecture for a portion of our show on Tuesday.

On the show today, we excerpted Martin Scorsese’s 2013 National Endowment for the Arts Jefferson Lecture, titled “Persistence of Vision: Reading the Language of Cinema.” He shares his wide knowledge of film history (including Eadweard Muybridge’s images of animals in motion from the 1870s and 1880s) and speaks movingly and eloquently about falling in love with the movies as a kid:

My parents had a good reason for taking me to the movies all the time because I was always sick with asthma since I was 3 years old and I apparently couldn’t do any sports. Or that’s what they told me. But really my mother and father did love the movies. They weren’t in the habit of reading – that didn’t’ really exist where I came from – and so we connected through the movies and, over the years, I know now that the warmth of that connection with my family and with the images up on the screen gave me something very precious because we were experiencing something fundamental together: We were living through the emotional truths on the screen together, often in coded form. … Sometimes they were expressed in small things – gestures, glances, reactions between the characters, light, shadow. I mean, we experienced these things that we normally couldn’t discuss or wouldn’t discuss or even acknowledge in our own lives, and that’s actually part of the wonder. So whenever I hear people dismiss movies as fantasy or make a hard distinction between film and life, I think to myself that it’s just a way of avoiding the power of cinema.

Image by Eadweard Muybridge