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Film Review: ‘Round Midnight’

'Round Midnight is a superbly crafted music world drama in which Gallic director Bertrand Tavernier pays a moving dramatic tribute to the great black musicians who lived and performed in Paris in the late 1950s. The $3 million film is dedicated to jazz giants Bud Powell and Lester Young, the composite inspiration for the story's central personage.

Round Midnight
Little Bear

‘Round Midnight is a superbly crafted music world drama in which Gallic director Bertrand Tavernier pays a moving dramatic tribute to the great black musicians who lived and performed in Paris in the late 1950s. The $3 million film is dedicated to jazz giants Bud Powell and Lester Young, the composite inspiration for the story’s central personage.

 

With his American co-scripter, David Rayfiel, Tavernier has placed deftly the themes of cultural roots, affinities and distances at the heart of the screenplay [‘inspired by incidents in the lives of Francis Paudras and Bud Powell’], which dramatizes the friendship between an aging jazz saxophonist, who has accepted an engagement at the legendary Blue Note club in Saint- Germain-des-Pres, and a passionate young French admirer who is ready to make personal sacrifices to help his idol.

 

Tavernier cast a non-professional in the central role: Dexter Gordon, the 63-year-old jazz veteran whom Tavernier has long admired. With his hoarse, hesitant diction and his lanky shuffle, Gordon fills the part of the world-weary artist with his own jagged warmth.

 

Film is no less a treat for the eye as for the ear. Shot almost entirely in the Epinay studios north of Paris, production is vividly designed by veteran Alexandre Trauner.

 

1986: Best Original Score.

 

Nomination: Best Actor (Dexter Gordon)

Film Review: ‘Round Midnight’

France - US

  • Production: Little Bear/PECF/Warner. Director Bertrand Tavernier; Producer Irwin Winkler; Screenplay Bertrand Tavernier, David Rayfiel; Camera Bruno de Keyzer; Editor Armand Psenny; Music Herbie Hancock; Art Director Alexandre Trauner
  • Crew: (Color) Widescreen. Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1986. Running time: 133 MIN.
  • With: Dexter Gordon Francois Cluzet Gabrielle Haker Sandra Reaves-Phillips John Berry Martin Scorsese
  • Music By: