Bertrand Tavernier, one of France’s most acclaimed directors – his credits include “Round Midnight” (1985), “The Bait” (1995), “The Princess of Montpensier” (2010) and “The French Minister” (2013) – is currently producing and directing an ambitious documentary that will explore French cinema from the 1930s through to the early 1970s.
The project is inspired by Martin Scorsese’s “Personal Journey through American Movies” (1995) and “My Voyage to Italian Cinema” (1999).
It will be highly personal – exploring the French films that inspired Tavernier to start out as a director – while showcasing long lost films that he has discovered during the production process.
Tavernier has discussed “Journey” with Scorsese and hopes to include an input from him during the final stages of the project.
Tavernier’s recognizes his dual debt to American and French cinema and has written extensively on the former.
He is a staunch advocate of French film heritage and is president of the Lyon-based Institut Lumiere, the organizer of the Grand Lyon Lumiere Festival, which begins its sixth edition on Monday.
During the Lyon Fest, on Oct 15, Tavernier will deliver a master class on French cinema and has also organized a selection of seven films from the 1940s and 1950s – including Abel Gance’s “Paradise Lost”(1940) and Henri Decoin’s “Au grand balcon” – some of which haven’t been seen in years.
Produced by Tavernier’s production company, Little Bear, “Journey” is co-produced and co-financed by Canal Plus, Gaumont and Pathé which have provided access to their extensive libraries of classic French films and thereby also hope to generate renewed market interest in their library titles.
Tavernier was born in 1941 in France’s third largest city, Lyon, the birthplace of the inventors of cinema, the Lumiere brothers.
During the 1960s he worked as assistant director to French director Jean-Pierre Melville and then as press attaché to producer Georges du Beauregard, for whom he promoted many classic French New Wave films, including Godard’s “Contempt” and “Pierrot le Fou.”
He directed his first film in Lyon in 1973 – “The Clockmaker” starring Philippe Noiret – that won a Silver Bear in Berlin and the Louis Delluc Prize.
“Journey” will explore the formative period that shaped Tavernier’s desire to become a director – films made between the early 1930s and the late 1960s, focusing above all on the pre-Nouvelle Vague period, which includes many neglected classics of Gallic cinema.
Tavernier is renowned for his interest in exploring multiple genres, set in different historical periods, but often with a strong social conscience.
In this project, he will pay tribute to directors that had a major influence on him, including established auteurs such as Renoir and Ophuls, but also directors such as Henri-Georges Clouzot, Henri Decoin and Claude Autant-Lara, who were attacked by Nouvelle Vague directors including François Truffaut – who branded them as embodying a staid, old-fashioned “cinema du papa”.
As a result, “Journey” is likely to come under close scrutiny from French film critics, mirroring some of the discussion generated by Tavernier’s 2002 feature film “Safe Conduct” about French cinema during the Vichy regime, that was criticized by several critics as being anti-Nouvelle Vague.
Tavernier dubs this debate as “ludicrous” and believes that his documentary series will introduce viewers to screen gems that have been long forgotten, in part due to such “pointless vendettas”.
“Journey” will be released in 2016 as a three-hour film, followed by an in-depth TV series.