Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Cinema Inside Me: Bertrand Tavernier

Last of my trips to the Renez-Vous With French Cinema was a talk by Bertrand Tavernier about the films that helped shape his life.

Tavernier is a film director, critic and author who is like a living film encyclopedia. The talk on any one film will spiral out in odd directions, all of them more interesting than the last.

I'm going give a very brief very sparse description as to what happened. I'm being sparse since Tavenier is the sort person who you don't dare focus on any one thing lest you lose the next thing he says.

He began by talking about John Ford, and how he was the first director that he noticed. They showed a clip from Ford's Pilgrimage (1933) which was unseen for many many decades. He used it to illustrate Ford's genius for the holding a shot longer than anyone else both to stretch out the emotion and to make moments more real.

From there he spoke about a French film called Deuce. Which he called an under appreciated gem. During the discussion he told the story about how the screenwriter for the film didn't think his life amounted to much. He felt that his life was useless compared to the people who made bread or cheese. He was told that perhaps they made bread or cheese, but he put light in to their lives.

Next up was a talk of Michael Powell. Tavenier told how one night at dinner, many years ago, with Martin Scorsese and Michael Powell,. During the course of the dinner Scorsese was bemoaning the fact that he was having a hard time renting 16 mm copies of Powell's movies. It appeared that the same person was chasing after the prints, horror film director George Romero.

From there they moved on to Andre De Toth and Day of the Outlaw. the talk t this point went off in a variety of interesting directions including some bits on Gary Cooper. Apparently Cooper loved to recite Shakespeare at length and his refuse to only speak in clipped terms on screen was the result of an attitude that "When you're going to vomit, it's best to do it little by little."

Tavenier then took some questions. Asked about the Westerns of Sergio Leone, Tavenier said he was the press agent for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. His attitude was that the films kind have worn out their power. He said he didn't need to see them again.

He said that he liked the recent films by Clint Eastwood and Ed Harris' Appaloosa. He was amused that people were arguing as to which version of True Grit was more faithful when they both were close enough to the book that several scenes in both versions were identical.

I liked the talk a great deal. It's the sort of thing that makes me wish that Tavenier would do a series on the history of film since it would probably reach more people than his books.

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