Tuesday, 11 October 2016


If this is Bertrand Tavernier's journey, and his alone, it's a remarkably selfless one. Selfless, but not impersonal, like an autobiography that's about the writer's friends and acquaintances, rather than themselves. Journey Through French Cinema is expansive enough to see further, and clearer, into the character of its subject than most of its own viewers, insightful enough to proffer appraisals of genuine quality and validity, rich enough to justify its runtime, brief enough to leave one in an appropriate state of reverence and excitement, specialist enough to leave one in a somewhat distant state of apathy by its end. Tavernier's knowledge is impressive and his intelligence even more so, and his openness to such a great variety of perspectives, opinions, styles and much else still results in a cinematic essay that's as persuasive in its purpose as you're likely to find. Yet this dense voyage into an encyclopaedic artistic mind is as esoteric as it is educational, despite the individual worth of all of its observations. Tavernier understands not only French cinema but the two things separately: France and cinema, and that's as apparent here as in any of his best films. One instantly observes parallels between himself and those artists profiled: a simultaneous embrace and mistrust of American cinema, a humanistic sentiment, an appreciation for classical craft yet an insistent rebuke of nostalgia, an empathy with misunderstood men, undefinable filmmakers as Tavernier is too. In him, as in a select few others, what is referred to here as French cinema remains alive today, in 2016, yet you'd hardly know it - Journey Through French Cinema is fixated upon the past, perhaps as an invaluable exercise in archiving, perhaps as a quiet lamentation for techniques lost to history. Tavernier's journey alone, but our lesson, and their party: Becker, Renoir, Gabin, Carne, Jaubert, Kosma, Constantine, Greville, Melville, Godard, Sautet, and many more!