In the United States, the legacy of Bertrand Tavernier

Land of inspiration for Bertrand Tavernier, the United States also mourns the French filmmaker, who died Thursday, March 25. From his friend Martin Scorsese to actors and film critics, tributes are increasing on social networks and in the press, which qualifies him pell-mell as ” champion of French cinema “, From” true connoisseur “Of the 7th art or” leader of a whole generation “.

The United States and Bertrand Tavernier, it’s an old story », Summarizes Lynn Higgins, professor of French studies at Dartmouth College and co-author of a book of interviews with the director. “ He first came to the United States in 1963, (at the age of 22, Editor’s note). Curious and interested in American cinema, he had raised money to cross the country by bus », Says this Francophile who became his friend.

“Around midnight”, his most famous film across the Atlantic

Even if the name of Bertrand Tavernier is not known to the general public across the Atlantic, his knowledge of American cinema was highly respected among critics and filmmakers of his generation. The Frenchman wrote in particular American Friends, a voluminous book of interviews and photos with Hollywood greats, including director John Ford, with whom Bertrand Tavernier worked when he was a press secretary in the 1960s.

A director, he often highlights American culture in his films, starting with “Around midnight”. This film set in the jazz scene of 1950s Paris will earn its lead actor, African-American saxophonist Dexter Jones, an Oscar nomination for best actor and $ 10 million at the box office. It is Bertrand Tavernier’s most famous film across the Atlantic.

In total, Lynn Higgins identifies a ” half a dozen works related to the United States »In his filmography. Among them, “In the electric haze” (2009) and “Coup de torchon” (1981), two adaptations of American books. She also quotes the most confidential “Mississippi Blues”, a 1983 documentary in which Bertrand Tavernier crisscrosses this black southern state ” in search of the roots of the blues, in church basements, small cabins and soup kitchens where people sang “. ” He liked to highlight marginalized cultures in the United States, such as musicians and writers of black novels. », Continues the professor.

An American version for his film “In the electric haze”

This does not prevent the director from posting his differences. Before the release in 2009 of “In the Electric Mist”, he engaged in a long standoff with the American production team. The producer considered that Bertrand Tavernier’s vision would not have suited the American public because it lacked “ pace “. The French ended up doing his own editing for French theaters, while another version was released in the United States, on DVD only. The American version still climbs to fourth position in film sales.

At the time, its producer put forward in an interview several hypotheses – surprising for the French – to explain why no American distributor wanted to show it in theaters: ” perhaps because they did not know the director and nothing in his career could indicate to them that he was able to make a success of a film of this magnitude! “.

Bertrand Tavernier had a love-hate relationship with the United States, Lynn Higgins concludes. He said he admired many of his artists while rejecting many of the country’s values “.


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