Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is an incredible, deeply affecting meditation on aging and impermanence wrapped in the body of a decades-spanning mob thriller. Scroll through Twitter, however, and you’re less likely to stumble upon thoughtful discussion than you are exhausting complaints, be it over Anna Paquin’s lack of lines—a purposeful, thematically resonant choice that the actor herself wishes you would all get over—or the film’s three-and-a-half-hour runtime. So pervasive are the latter whinges that at least one intrepid fan has provided a chart that tells you how to watch it as a satisfying, four-part limited series.
This, of course, didn’t go over well for fans of Scorsese, who, due in part to his recent comments about Marvel films and what constitutes “cinema,” has become a pillar in the ongoing discussion of how we consume content in 2019. In an era where producers capitalize on dwindling attention spans produced by an increasingly online culture by turning seemingly everything into a series, the concept of watching a full movie in one sitting is becoming more and more foreign—even as consumers are still likely to binge multiple episodes of a series over one afternoon. That might be confusing on its face, but it’s the promise of an imminent break—a chance to reorient with phones or socials or emails—that makes binging chunks more appealing than committing to a single story for an extended period of time. This kind of behavior is undoubtedly changing the way content is made, and Scorsese has, time and again, sought to extol the singular, more meditative pleasures of the cinematic experience.
The filmmaker, for example, recently spoke to Entertainment Weekly about why he never considered turning his epic story into a series. “You could say, ‘This is a long story, you can play it out over two seasons’—I saw somebody mention that,” he says. “Absolutely no. I’ve never even thought of it. Because the point of this picture is the accumulation of detail. It’s an accumulated cumulative effect by the end of the movie—which means you get to see from beginning to end [in one sitting] if you’re so inclined. A series is great, it’s wonderful, you can develop character and plot lines and worlds are recreated. But this wasn’t right for that.”
This, of course, has only fanned the flames of the online debates over how to consume the film, leading many pranksters to poke the bear in hilarious ways. Writer Gonzalo Cordova, for example, broke the movie down into even tinier chunks, using the forthcoming short-form streamer Quibi as a guidepost.
And it’s only gotten weirder from there.
However you watch it, be it in one sitting or one minute a day for the next 209 days, Scorsese has just one more request: don’t do it on your phone. (Big iPads are fine, though.)