July 14, 2017 —It’s tempting to say that Bertrand Tavernier’s 3-hour-and-15-minute documentary “My Journey Through French Cinema” is a feast for everybody who loves classic Gallic movies. This is certainly true. But it’s also a movie for people who just plain love movies – from anywhere. Plus, it’s a great introduction to French cinema for all those who have yet to make its acquaintance. Have I left anybody out?
Tavernier is a celebrated film director in his own right (“The Clockmaker of St. Paul”), but before he was a filmmaker, he was a critic and publicist. Before that, he was a wide-eyed child marveling at the images he saw on the screen in Parisian neighborhood theaters. He says in the film, which he narrates, that watching his first movie reminded him of how joyous he felt at age 3 seeing the torches in the streets announcing the end of World War II.
The documentary covers mostly films from the 1930s through the ’70s, and the hundreds of clips, archival interviews, and stills are highly idiosyncratic. This is, after all, a personal journey. He makes no pretense to cover everything. How could he?
Still, there are major gaps along the way: Very little attention is devoted to, for example, Robert Bresson (“Diary of a Country Priest”), Jean Cocteau (“Orpheus”), Max Ophüls (“The Earrings of Madame De…”), and many other masters. (He has said he will make a second installment.) On the other hand, Tavernier confers quality screen time on such relatively obscure directors as Gilles Grangier and Jean Delannoy, the implication, of course, being that they, too, deserve their place in the pantheon.
Read more at Christian Science Monitor.