The acclaimed French filmmaker, documentarian and author, Bertrand Tavernier, has died at the age of 79.
The internationally celebrated director is best-known for films including, The Clockmaker (1974), Round Midnight (1986), Life and Nothing But (1989) and Electric Mist (2009). As well as his novel on film history, 50 Years of American Cinema.
The director of the Venice Film Festival, Alberto Barbera, eulogised the film luminary, describing him as “a complete auteur, instinctive anti-conformist and courageously eclectic.” Paris-based Film journalist and close companion of Tavernier, Joan Dupont, once described the beauty in the unexpected that his work embodied, stating: “He’s a very astonishing filmmaker because he jumps from one genre to another; you never know where you’re going to find him next.”
Whilst the filmmaker may well have celebrated the American classics, he was less certain about the direction of modern motion picture, commenting in 2003 that, “If technology is controlling us, it will transform us into stupid children, and in a way, part of American cinema does that.”
Having been born in 1941, Tavernier was younger than a lot of his contemporaries in the French New Wave movement of the 1960s, however, this did give him the opportunity to work as an assistant alongside many of them and learn his craft. From his unique viewpoint as an assistant he saw both the merit and flaws of the French New Wave movies, regarding his time working alongside the likes of Jean-Luc Godard and others, he told Dupont: “They never show you really working-class people.” Dupont went on to explain, “I think what he meant was they don’t show you people; they show you special people. I find him extremely touching in his passion and his sensitivity to what he’s lived, his perception of others because he moves and he observes.”
Tavernier’s first feature film, The Clockmaker, won a Berlin Film Festival. Since then Tavernier’s films, which were usually crime dramas, have won a number of honours both in France and internationally.
The director will not only be remembered as a luminary of modern cinema, but as a man who stood for what he thought was right having thought various battles in his career to condone French colonial abuses in Algeria, as well as censorship and discrimination of immigrants.