Journey Through French Cinema




Bertrand Tavernier shares his enthusiasm for films made in France.

Journey Through French Cinema


This is a film that offers an immersive experience. It may take a dedicated cinéaste to appreciate it to the full, however, because this is a somewhat unorthodox work. Although that fine French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier is both the central presence and the film’s director, I had assumed that Journey Through French Cinema would be a standard guide to the history of French cinema. It’s not that, however, and anyone wanting an historical outline on the subject won't find it here.


What we have instead is a wholly personal piece about Tavernier’s enthusiasm for cinema which shows him to be a brilliantly insightful critic who, although ready to find weaknesses both in films and in people, prefers to praise and is pleased to pick out some titles unknown to most of us in this country. Although he describes his own developing discoveries as a viewer, the autobiographical element is kept in the background, despite which we are made aware that this work breaks off when he is no more than an assistant director (it lasts for over three hours but would appear to be only the first part of a longer project).


Tavernier’s approach is such that he can devote long sections to those he admires the most, among them the directors Jacques Becker and Claude Sautet, the composers Maurice Jaubert and Joseph Kosma and the actors Jean Gabin and, surprisingly, Eddie Constantine. In all cases he analyses their work through extracts from their films considered as a group (needless to say the superb clips are all shown in the correct ratio). In some instances his feelings are mixed (he loves Jean Renoir as a director but disapproves of him as a man while in the case of Jean-Pierre Melville he is critical of much of his work but admires certain titles hugely). Not surprisingly his great praise for the films of Marcel Carné does not extend to the later work. There are shorter tributes to Truffaut, Godard and Henri Langlois and a characteristically French veneration for the films of Edmond T. Gréville whose British movie Noose is the only non-French film here, although the extract shown does have French subtitles!


There are brief contributions from others, but quite rightly Tavernier is absolutely central and it is his intellect and passion that prevent the film from seeming overlong. One notices that actresses get mentioned only in passing and, as indicated, the survey is by its nature far from comprehensive. But it’s great to share Tavernier’s insights and his behind the scenes observations and he seizes the chance to promote work we may well have missed (that extends not just to titles we may have only heard of such as Pierre Schoendoerffer’s La 137ème section but to a director such as Jean Sacha of whom most of us have never even heard).




Featuring  Bertrand Tavernier, Thierry Frémaux, Jean-Paul Belmondo, and the voice of André Marcon.


Dir Bertrand Tavernier with Thierry Frémaux and the collaboration of Jean Ollé-Laprune and Stéphane Lerouge, Pro Frédéric Bourboulon, Screenplay Bertrand Tavernier with Thierry Frémaux  and the collaboration of Jean Ollé-Laprune and Stéphane Lerouge, Ph Jérôme Alméras, Simon Beaufils and Julien Pamart, Ed Marie Deroudille and Guy Lecorne, Music Bruno Coulais.


Little Bear/Gaumont/Pathé/Canal+/Ciné+-StudioCanal Limited.
201 mins. France. 2016. Rel: 15 September 2017. Cert. 12A.