NYFF54: Retrospective (Erudition and Love)

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Bertrand Tavernier, NYC, 3/4/11

Master director Bertrand Tavernier’s epic documentary, “My Journey Through French Cinema,” his “exercise in admiration and gratitude,” illuminates and celebrates his country’s rich film culture.

Although Tavernier’s knowledge of his native cinema is vast, he approached his work like an explorer, discovering the films and filmmakers almost anew. While he was certain he would include Jean Renoir, Jacques Becker, Jean Gabin, Marcel Carné and his two “godfathers in the cinema,” Jean-Pierre Melville and Claude Sautet, and composers of essential scores, he says that “one name led to another” and the film made room for Edmond T. Gréville, Jean Sacha, Gilles Grangier, and many more.

The film is comprised of seemly endless glorious clips, a seminar’s worth of Tavernier’s commentary onscreen and off, and ideas from both other directors (including Volker Schlöndorff, also a Melville assistant) and composer Antoine Duhamel (1925-2014), who in 2002 was awarded the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for his music for Tavernier’s “Safe Conduct” (“Laissez-passer”).

The documentary runs 190 minutes and despite that I watched it in a very cold room (on its big, gorgeous new screen), I happily could have stayed immersed for hours more.

“My Journey Through French Cinema” will screen in the Retrospective section on Saturday, October 1 at 12:00 pm and Sunday, October 2 at 2:45 pm. French classics featured in the film, directed by Robert Bresson, Jacques Becker, Julien Duvivier Jean-Pierre Melville and Jean Renoir, will be shown from Monday, October 3 through Sunday, October 9. Tavernier’s “Safe Conduct,” about Occupation-era filmmaking, will be shown on Saturday, October 1 at 3:45 pm.

Tavernier is also well-versed in American cinema and has always admired and championed the work of Henry Hathaway, who directed the first of his 52 films, a talkie, as silent films were going extinct. Twelve of his films will be shown in the section from Monday, October 3 through Saturday, October 15.

Bertrand Tavernier, NYC, 3/4/11

Bertrand Tavernier, NYC, 10/2/86

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