My Journey Through French Cinema
In his own right, Bertrand Tavernier is an acclaimed director, screenwriter and producer of critically lauded movies such as La Princesse de Montpensier, Round Midnight and Daddy Nostalgia. His latest documentary, My Journey Through French Cinema (Voyage à Travers le Cinéma Français), is essentially a love letter from Tavernier his country’s film industry, covering its output from wartime France to the modern era. The filmmaker takes us through an examination of the creative giants in French cinema and their influence on the medium.
Undeniably, this is a work made for cinephiles and fans of French cinema – and to that aim, it serves them well. My Journey Through French Cinema is very detailed and Tavernier eschews rudimentary explanations and instead examines the specific elements behind influential pictures from France. He devotes a lot of time to breaking down the more subtle approaches of titan directors such as Jacques Becker, Jean Renoir and Marcel Carné, and how they established themes, subverted plot conventions and used innovative camera work. In this sense, the documentary works so well: no stone is left unturned, and he does their magnificent filmography a great justice by delving into their intricacies.
Tavernier is an engaging narrator and audibly bursts with enthusiasm when describing some of the films that impacted him when he was younger, and showcases a lot of gems from French cinema. He highlights his favourite scenes from classics such as Casque d’Or, Antoine et Antoinette and La Marseillaise. And Tavernier’s no -stone-left-uncovered approach is also superb for providing context and insight beyond the directors he admires, with him covering actor Jean Gabin’s post-war comeback and composer Maurice Jaubert’s expert use of music to initiate a scene, amongst other key figures.
Conversely, and this isn’t necessarily a detraction, but for those who are not movie buffs or Francophiles the film might collapse under the weight of its own nuance (it’s rather detailed) and length (it’s three hours and ten minutes long!). To be clear, My Journey Through French Cinema is an incredible learning resource for anyone interested in the topic and a brilliant documentary oozing with life. However, if someone only has a perfunctory curiosity, then it might appear laborious, especially as Tavernier’s zeal has him devoting considerable attention to so many in-depth facets of French cinema. That considered, it’s a brilliant and well-crafted work and a terrific tribute to the legends of his country.
My Journey Through French Cinema is released in selected cinemas on 15th September 2017.
Watch the trailer for My Journey Through French Cinema here: