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Martin Scorsese: I Said Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema. Let Me Explain.

When I was in England in early October, I gave an interview to Empire magazine. I was asked a question about Marvel movies. I answered it. I said that I’ve tried to watch a few of them and that they’re not for me, that they seem to me to be closer to theme parks than they are to movies as I’ve known and loved them throughout my life, and that in the end, I don’t think they’re cinema.


Some people seem to have seized on the last part of my answer as insulting, or as evidence of hatred for Marvel on my part. If anyone is intent on characterizing my words in that light, there’s nothing I can do to stand in the way.



Many franchise films are made by people of considerable talent and artistry. You can see it on the screen. The fact that the films themselves don’t interest me is a matter of personal taste and temperament. I know that if I were younger, if I’d come of age at a later time, I might have been excited by these pictures and maybe even wanted to make one myself. But I grew up when I did and I developed a sense of movies — of what they were and what they could be — that was as far from the Marvel universe as we on Earth are from Alpha Centauri.


For me, for the filmmakers I came to love and respect, for my friends who started making movies around the same time that I did, cinema was about revelation — aesthetic, emotional and spiritual revelation. It was about characters — the complexity of people and their contradictory and sometimes paradoxical natures, the way they can hurt one another and love one another and suddenly come face to face with themselves.


It was about confronting the unexpected on the screen and in the life it dramatized and interpreted, and enlarging the sense of what was possible in the art form.


And that was the key for us: it was an art form. There was some debate about that at the time, so we stood up for cinema as an equal to literature or music or dance. And we came to understand that the art could be found in many different places and in just as many forms — in “The Steel Helmet” by Sam Fuller and “Persona” by Ingmar Bergman, in “It’s Always Fair Weather” by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly and “Scorpio Rising” by Kenneth Anger, in “Vivre Sa Vie” by Jean-Luc Godard and “The Killers” by Don Siegel.

而这对我们来说恰是关键之处:它是一种艺术形式。当时,对这一点存在一些争论,于是我们坚持电影与文学、音乐或舞蹈相当的观点。并且我们认识到,艺术可以在许多不同的地方以同样多的形式出现——在塞缪尔·富勒(Sam Fuller)的《钢盔》(The Steel Helmet) 和英格玛·伯格曼(Ingmar Bergman)的《假面》(Persona)里,在斯坦利·多南(Stanley Donen)和吉恩·凯利(Gene Kelly)的《美景良辰》(It’s Always Fair Weather)及肯尼斯·安格(Kenneth Anger)的《天蝎星升起》(Scorpio Rising)里,在让-吕克·戈达尔(Jean-Luc Godard)的《随心所欲》(Vivre Sa Vie)和唐·西格尔(Don Siegel)的《杀人者》(The Killers)里。

Or in the films of Alfred Hitchcock — I suppose you could say that Hitchcock was his own franchise. Or that he was our franchise. Every new Hitchcock picture was an event. To be in a packed house in one of the old theaters watching “Rear Window” was an extraordinary experience: It was an event created by the chemistry between the audience and the picture itself, and it was electrifying.

或者在阿尔弗雷德·希区柯克(Alfred Hitchcock)的电影里——我想你可以说希区柯克自成一个系列。或者说他是我们的系列。每一部新的希区柯克电影都是一个事件。在最老的影院之一、在满满当当的影厅里观看《后窗》(Rear Window) 是一次非凡的体验:那是观众和影片自身之间的化学反应制造出的事件,令人兴奋不已。

And in a way, certain Hitchcock films were also like theme parks. I’m thinking of “Strangers on a Train,” in which the climax takes place on a merry-go-round at a real amusement park, and “Psycho,” which I saw at a midnight show on its opening day, an experience I will never forget. People went to be surprised and thrilled, and they weren’t disappointed.

从某种程度上,某些希区柯克电影也像主题公园。我在想《火车怪客》(Strangers on a Train),其中的高潮部分发生在一个真实游乐园的旋转木马上;还有《惊魂记》(Psycho),我是在首映当天看的午夜场,那次经历我永远难忘。人们前去感受意外和惊悚,他们没有失望。

Sixty or 70 years later, we’re still watching those pictures and marveling at them. But is it the thrills and the shocks that we keep going back to? I don’t think so. The set pieces in “North by Northwest” are stunning, but they would be nothing more than a succession of dynamic and elegant compositions and cuts without the painful emotions at the center of the story or the absolute lostness of Cary Grant’s character.

六七十年后的今天,我们仍在看这些片子,并对它们赞叹不已。但我们一再回顾的是那些惊悚和震惊吗?我不这么看。《西北偏北》(North by Northwest)里程式化的场景固然出色,但没有故事核心的痛苦情感,或加里·格兰特(Cary Grant)所饰角色绝然的迷失,它们不过是一系列不断变化、优美的构图和剪裁。

The climax of “Strangers on a Train” is a feat, but it’s the interplay between the two principal characters and Robert Walker’s profoundly unsettling performance that resonate now.

《火车怪客》的高潮部分是一项惊人的成就,但如今引发共鸣的,是两个主要角色之间的互动,以及罗伯特·沃克(Robert Walker)着实令人不安的表演。

Some say that Hitchcock’s pictures had a sameness to them, and perhaps that’s true — Hitchcock himself wondered about it. But the sameness of today’s franchise pictures is something else again. Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures. What’s not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk. The pictures are made to satisfy a specific set of demands, and they are designed as variations on a finite number of themes.


They are sequels in name but they are remakes in spirit, and everything in them is officially sanctioned because it can’t really be any other way. That’s the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption.


Another way of putting it would be that they are everything that the films of Paul Thomas Anderson or Claire Denis or Spike Lee or Ari Aster or Kathryn Bigelow or Wes Anderson are not. When I watch a movie by any of those filmmakers, I know I’m going to see something absolutely new and be taken to unexpected and maybe even unnameable areas of experience. My sense of what is possible in telling stories with moving images and sounds is going to be expanded.

换言之,它们和保罗·托马斯·安德森(Paul Thomas Anderson)、克莱尔·丹尼斯(Claire Denis)、斯派克·李(Spike Lee)、阿里·艾斯特(Ari Aster)、凯瑟琳·毕格罗(Kathryn Bigelow)或韦斯·安德森(Wes Anderson)的电影大相径庭。当我看那些电影人的影片时,我知道自己可以看到全新的东西,进入意想不到、乃至无以名状的体验领域。用移动的画面和声音讲故事还有着什么样的可能性?他们的影片会扩展我对此的感受。

So, you might ask, what’s my problem? Why not just let superhero films and other franchise films be? The reason is simple. In many places around this country and around the world, franchise films are now your primary choice if you want to see something on the big screen. It’s a perilous time in film exhibition, and there are fewer independent theaters than ever. The equation has flipped and streaming has become the primary delivery system. Still, I don’t know a single filmmaker who doesn’t want to design films for the big screen, to be projected before audiences in theaters.


That includes me, and I’m speaking as someone who just completed a picture for Netflix. It, and it alone, allowed us to make “The Irishman” the way we needed to, and for that I’ll always be thankful. We have a theatrical window, which is great. Would I like the picture to play on more big screens for longer periods of time? Of course I would. But no matter whom you make your movie with, the fact is that the screens in most multiplexes are crowded with franchise pictures.

虽然刚刚为Netflix拍完一部影片,但我也是如此。Netflix,也只有Netflix,允许我们以我们所需的方式拍出了《爱尔兰人》(The Irishman),为此我永远心怀感激。我们有了一扇通往影院的窗口,这非常好。我可想让这部电影在更大的银幕上播放更长时间?当然如此。然而,不管你同谁合作拍电影,事实是,大多数多厅影院的银幕上还是充斥着那些系列大片。

And if you’re going to tell me that it’s simply a matter of supply and demand and giving the people what they want, I’m going to disagree. It’s a chicken-and-egg issue. If people are given only one kind of thing and endlessly sold only one kind of thing, of course they’re going to want more of that one kind of thing.


But, you might argue, can’t they just go home and watch anything else they want on Netflix or iTunes or Hulu? Sure — anywhere but on the big screen, where the filmmaker intended her or his picture to be seen.


In the past 20 years, as we all know, the movie business has changed on all fronts. But the most ominous change has happened stealthily and under cover of night: the gradual but steady elimination of risk. Many films today are perfect products manufactured for immediate consumption. Many of them are well made by teams of talented individuals. All the same, they lack something essential to cinema: the unifying vision of an individual artist. Because, of course, the individual artist is the riskiest factor of all.


I’m certainly not implying that movies should be a subsidized art form, or that they ever were. When the Hollywood studio system was still alive and well, the tension between the artists and the people who ran the business was constant and intense, but it was a productive tension that gave us some of the greatest films ever made — in the words of Bob Dylan, the best of them were “heroic and visionary.”

我当然不是说,电影应该是一种受到额外资助的艺术形式,或者它曾经受此优待。当好莱坞片厂制度还存在,并且运转良好的时候,艺术家与商业经营者之间的张力频繁而激烈,但这是一种充满创造性的张力,为我们带来一些有史以来最伟大的电影——用鲍勃·迪伦(Bob Dylan)的话说,其中最好的影片“充满英雄气概和远见卓识”。

Today, that tension is gone, and there are some in the business with absolute indifference to the very question of art and an attitude toward the history of cinema that is both dismissive and proprietary — a lethal combination. The situation, sadly, is that we now have two separate fields: There’s worldwide audiovisual entertainment, and there’s cinema. They still overlap from time to time, but that’s becoming increasingly rare. And I fear that the financial dominance of one is being used to marginalize and even belittle the existence of the other.


For anyone who dreams of making movies or who is just starting out, the situation at this moment is brutal and inhospitable to art. And the act of simply writing those words fills me with terrible sadness.

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