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Lettre de Martin Scorsese à
Cédric Klapisch et LaCinetek




Cher Cédric,

Tout en m’attelant à cette nouvelle mission, je tente de clarifier ma pensée ; ce qui
me pose toujours un problème, quelle que soit la mission à accomplir, et tout
particulièrement lorsqu’il s’agit d’exprimer mes préférences en matière de cinéma...

Qu’est-ce qu’une « préférence » quand on parle de 7e art ? Qu’est-ce que cela
signifie ? Nos préférences évoluent avec le temps et dépendent grandement de nos
expériences de vie. Est-il juste, voire approprié, de distinguer les films qui vous ont
ébloui par leur beauté et leur puissance dans vos jeunes années de ceux qui vous ont
marqué à 30 ans ? À 50 ans ? Ou encore à 72 ans ? Les films qui m’ont bouleversé et
obsédé dans ma jeunesse ont été aussi formateurs que déterminants car ils ont
ébranlé ma conscience. Ils sont devenus sources d’inspiration et ont même fait office
de grammaire pour les films que j’ai réalisés par la suite. Quand je fais l’expérience
de les revoir, nombre de ces films demeurent une source intarissable dans laquelle
je puise sans cesse.

S’agit-il vraiment de fournir aujourd’hui une sélection de films qui ont été
formateurs pour moi ? C’est en tout cas le cahier des charges que j’ai tenté de
respecter. Mais quid des films et des cinéastes qui ont enrichi mon parcours et les
oeuvres que j’ai voulu réaliser en prenant de l’âge ?

Je pense à Frank Borzage que je n’ai « découvert » qu’en 1989. Je m’étais mis à la
recherche de ses films, de tous ceux que je pouvais trouver. J’ai pu en visionner un
grand nombre pendant deux années de suite. Il s’agissait aussi bien de copies de
films que de cassettes VHS. Je me souviens d’avoir été particulièrement frappé par
Sur le velours et Je vous ai toujours aimé. On peut parler là de véritable
« fulgurance ».

Je pense aussi à ma longue période de fascination pour Ozu, qui a duré de
nombreuses années. Ce sont d’ailleurs ses films qui, peu à peu, m’ont appris à les
« voir » véritablement.

Je pense à Mikio Naruse, un réalisateur dont j’avais entendu parler dès les années
70. Je n’ai pu découvrir ses oeuvres sur grand écran que depuis une dizaine d’années
seulement. Ce fut une véritable révélation.

Je pense aussi aux préférences qui sont liées à l’humeur du jour, au simple fait qu’à
une certaine époque de sa vie, on a envie de se plonger dans tel film plutôt que dans
tel autre. Prenez les films de Jacques Tourneur par exemple. La Griffe du passé m’a-t-il
davantage « influencé » que Vaudou ? Peut-être, mais parfois, je préfère passer du
temps devant l’un plutôt que l’autre. Je vais même pouvoir préférer L’Homme-
léopard
ou La Féline, voire un film plus mineur comme L’Enquête est close. Ou encore
un film mineur réalisé par un réalisateur moins important que Tourneur, mais qui
dispose d’une qualité qui me manquerait. Finalement, on pourrait dire que chaque
film entre en conversation avec chaque autre film.

Il y a aussi naturellement les films de Powell et Pressburger qui constituent un
véritable trésor. Les Chaussons rouges est pour moi un film formateur, mais j’ai
découvert leurs autres films au fur et à mesure des années. J’en ai vu certains dans
des conditions très loin d’être optimales. Par exemple, Les Contes d’Hoffmann est un
film que j’ai vu pour la première fois en noir et blanc à la télévision. J’ai visionné
Colonel Blimp pendant de nombreuses années dans une version tronquée. Je n’ai
réussi à voir la vraie version du film, celle qu’ils avaient réalisée, qu’en 1985. Et ce
n’est que des années plus tard que j’ai vu Je sais où je vais ou A Canterbury Tale pour
la première fois. C’est donc tout au long de ma vie que j’ai découvert la richesse de
l’oeuvre de Powell et Pressburger.

Pour finir, comment choisir un seul film d’Orson Welles ? Chaque fois que j’aperçois
quelques images d’un de ses films, j’ai le sentiment qu’il s’agit peut-être du meilleur
de tous. Prenez par exemple, Vérités et mensonges, que j’ai vraiment « découvert »
l’an dernier, lorsque j’ai enfin pu le visionner calmement, sans préjugés.

Et que dire des très nombreux films et cinéastes qui n’apparaissent pas sur ces listes
et que j’admire...

J’ai donc tenté d’établir une liste de « films formateurs » mais aussi une deuxième
liste de films, comme une liste « alternative », sur laquelle figurent des titres que
j’aime peut-être encore plus que certains que j’ai cités sur cette première liste
« formatrice ».

Nul doute que tout cela est très injuste...

M. Scorsese
Dear Cédric,

As I perform this task, I’m trying to clarify my thinking. This is always a problem for me, no matter what the task. Especially, when it involves stating my preferences in the matter of cinema.

What is a “preference” in the art of cinema? What does it mean? Preferences change with time and according to where you are in your experience. Is it fair or just to attempt to separate those films that shocked you with their beauty and power in the early years of your life from the ones that impressed you at 30? Or 50? Or 72? The films that overwhelmed and obsessed me during the early years of my life are formative and mind-altering for me, and they became the inspiration and the road to a vocabulary for the films I made. Many of them, when I re-experience them, are still a well from which I continue to draw—others are not.

So, is this, finally, a selection of films that were formative for me? That’s what I’ve attempted. But then where does that leave all those films and filmmakers who enriched my life and the work I tried to do as I grew older?

I’m thinking of Frank Borzage, who I “discovered” in 1989. I started searching out as many of his pictures as I could find, I looked at many of them for two years straight, prints and duped videotapes, and I remember being struck—the suddenness of it—by Living on Velvet and I’ve Always Loved You.

I’m thinking of my long period of fascination with Ozu, over many years, during which the films themselves slowly and gradually taught me how to “see” them.

I’m thinking of Mikio Naruse, a director I’d heard about back in the 70s but whose work I wasn’t able to view on a big screen until about a decade ago—a revelation.

And then I’m thinking of mood and preference based on nothing more than the fact that it’s a certain day at a certain moment in my life, and I’d like to visit that picture instead of this picture. Take to Jacques Tourneur films: has Out of the Past “influenced” me more than I Walked with a Zombie? Maybe, but sometimes I’d rather spend time with one as opposed to the other, or with The Leopard Man or Cat People, or maybe with a minor picture like Circle of Danger. Or maybe a minor movie made by a lesser director than Tourneur, with a quality that I miss. In the end, every movie is in conversation with every other movie.

And then there are the Powell-Pressberger pictures, a treasure for me. The Red Shoes was formative, but I saw the other pictures gradually, over the years. Some I saw under less than optimum conditions, like The Tales of Hoffmann, which I saw for the first time on black and white commercial television. Or The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, which I saw only in its truncated version for many years—I only saw the picture as they intended that it be seen in 1985. And it was many years before I saw I Know Where I’m Going or A Canterbury Tale for the first time. So, discovering the work of Powell and Pressburger has been long unfolding, throughout my whole life.

And then, how do you choose which picture by Orson Welles? Because every time I catch even a glimpse of one of his films, I feel that it might be the best of all of them. For instance, “F” for Fake, which I “discovered” last year, when I was finally, at long last, able to see it calmly and without preconceptions.

And what about the many films and filmmakers that do not appear on these lists, and that are beloved by me…

So, I tried to make a “formative” list and an alternate list of films, some of which I may love even more than those on the “formative” list.

I’m sure it’s all un-fair…

M. Scorsese

Martin Scorsese

The director's list
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