Letter to Bertrand Tavernier about the remastering of “L’Horloger de Saint-Paul”

By Pierre-William Glenn, AFC

Contre-Champ AFC n°318

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In late January 2015, cinematographer Pierre-William Glenn, AFC, was asked to take over the color grading process of Bertrand Tavernier’s L’Horloger de Saint-Paul at Laboratoires Éclair, in advance of the release of a Blu-Ray DVD version two months later. He’d sent his friend, the director, a letter, in which he shared his emotion at watching the film again and remembering the experience of shooting beside him. Here’s an excerpt…

Dear Bernard,

On Friday, 23rd January, I took over color grading of L’Horloger de Saint-Paul, as the version submitted to me for approval in advance of a Blu-Ray DVD release was really disgraceful ; I will finish on Wednesday 28th and perhaps the 27th if the room is available.

The day gave rise to the most acute and revealing feelings about my, our, relationship to the cinema. Whenever I watch a film I’ve shot, I always experience the strange feeling of “time that doesn’t pass” and I found myself projected (as, indeed, in any fiction) into another time, but the feelings from shooting came back into the present and, last Friday, I physically reexperienced my time alongside you in Lyon over 40 years ago. I didn’t even have the thought that it would be better to leave the heart to retain the memories, as remembering, after all, is not a voluntary act. When the heart wishes to forget, it leaves the mind at peace. When it wants to remember, it succeeds in its aims : the emotions spring up again intact.

Bertrand Tavernier et Pierre-William Glenn, à Lyon en 1973 - Collection particulière
Bertrand Tavernier et Pierre-William Glenn, à Lyon en 1973
Collection particulière

And, proof that memory doesn’t always involve regret and sadness, I felt that something really had happened during my lifetime… and that thing continues to happen. Passions and days really didn’t meld into one another. They say that one paints, sculpts, composes, writes and films in order to withstand time and become immortal. I guarantee you that the leap in time I experienced on 23rd January, which caused me to reexperience the feeling of the light of the city of Lyon, its dark interiors, its traffic jams and its trabules, as well as the feeling of your friendly, generous and concerned presence, considerably rejuvenated me.

All of this emotional prose is to tell you that the film is now completely different from what was shown to me and that, despite working from an HD interpositive and not from the original negative, along with Aude Humblet, the colourist, I was able to rediscover everything that made L’Horloger a modern and original film. It is true that there are no more “old” films than there are “old” books and that our heart retains fresh imprints of moments of creativity and friendship. Eternal, of course…

The thumbnail image shows Philippe Noiret in L’Horloger de Saint-Paul.

Translated from French by A. Baron-Raiffe