Renowned French film director Bertrand Tavernier dies

Bertrand Tavernier in Marrakesh, 1 Dec 19
Tavernier’s work spans a wide range of film genres

The internationally celebrated and prolific French film director Bertrand Tavernier has died aged 79.

His most famous films include The Clockmaker (1974), Round Midnight (1986) and Life and Nothing But (1989).

He was born in Lyon under Nazi occupation in 1941 and his father René, a writer, was in the French Resistance.

Tavernier headed the Institut Lumière, named after the brothers who invented cinema. His work spanned several genres from thrillers to historical dramas.

Tavernier was also a screenwriter, actor and producer. He developed a passion for cinema as a teenager while staying at a sanatorium, getting treatment for tuberculosis.

He said Hollywood’s golden age – especially Westerns – inspired him. That was especially clear in his 2009 American film In the Electric Mist, starring Tommy Lee Jones and John Goodman.

The 1986 film Round Midnight dramatises the life of a struggling jazz musician and pianist Herbie Hancock won an Oscar for the film’s score, but Tavernier mainly focused on French themes and became a campaigner for French culture.

In 2003 he criticised special effects-driven blockbusters, saying “if the technology is controlling us, it will transform us into stupid children, and in a way, part of the American cinema does that”.

His first feature film, The Clockmaker, won a Silver Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival. A crime drama with social and political dimensions, it starred Philippe Noiret, who also acted in many subsequent Tavernier films. Tavernier went on to win many more film honours in France and internationally.

His early work was dominated by crime thrillers. But he also embraced left-wing causes. He attacked French colonial abuses in Algeria, censorship and discrimination against migrants.

Alberto Barbera, director of the Venice Film Festival, called Tavernier “a complete auteur, instinctively anti-conformist and courageously eclectic”.

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