Bertrand Tavernier’s Last Voyage

Contre-Champ AFC n°318

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With Bertrand Tavernier’s death on 25 March 2021 at the age of 79, the 7th Art lost the last member of its French branch of so-called “classic” filmmakers. A man with an unquenchable curiosity and an encyclopedic knowledge, he had made himself at home within cinema, where he enjoyed both making his films and living the different stages of his life. The camera operators, with whom he enjoyed sharing books and rare, forgotten finds from screens of all sorts – as well as with his other coworkers, friends or acquaintances – were, according to this director, his allies.

Born in Lyon on 25 April 1941 to a father who was a poet and a member of the Résistance, Bertrand Tavernier developed a passion both for reading and for the images he used to see in the movie theaters he assiduously frequented. At 20, he wrote his first article for Positif on the film Temps sans pitié, by Joesph Losey, and then, during the 1960s, for other specialized journals such as Cinéma 60, Cahiers du Cinéma, Présence du Cinéma, and Les Lettres françaises. He worked simultaneously as a publicist and a screenwriter before he shot his first feature-length film in 1973, L’Horloger de Saint-Paul.

Here, we will leave it to others to sift through his over forty years of passion for cinema, covering an oeuvre whose last film was Voyage à travers le cinéma français in 2016. However, we will list a few links towards a text written by Tavernier, as well as articles and memorials written by people who were close to him. Once, in a letter, he referenced some lines from the screenplay of his film Laissez-passer, between two screenwriters, and so, in conclusion, we’d like to cite, using his own words, the “good work” that any director might take on, meaning that if filmmakers as storytellers are good for anything, it is that they can “shed light on life”.*.

* Letter from Bertrand Tavernier to Xavier Gianno, reprinted on the website of France Inter.

The thumbnail image above shows Bertrand Tavernier shooting Quai d’Orsay – Photo Etienne George

Translated from French by A. Baron-Raiffe