Sunday 26 March 2017

French Film Festival (6) - Finally, Tavernier's epic doco A JOURNEY THROUGH FRENCH CINEMA

Bertrand Tavernier
Finally watching Bertrand Tavernier’s three hour plus Voyage a travers le cinema francais at a session of the French Film Festival was not a little trying. The session due to start at 8.10 pm on a Sunday night was initially slightly hampered by the young door moppet’s need to keep spectators out while a cleaning of the theatre took place. Then followed 25 minutes of excruciating blow hard French advertising material mixing the odd trailer for other FFF ‘entries’ with endless puff about language courses, perfume, Renault cars and more. On and on it went and the audience was clearly attuned to it. Arrivals were still occurring right up to the very moment when the feature started at 8.36 pm. The credits were still rolling through at about 11.50 pm which given other reports makes you wonder if there are different versions of the film floating round. A steady trickle of exits were no longer present.

Jean Sacha
There have been plenty of opinions passed about Tavernier’s film, a diary of his film life from early childhood to somewhere in the sixties.  Barrie Pattison was the first to comment on this blog but others have mentioned it. From Becker to Sautet with side trips to lesser known figures like Edmond T Greville and the, to me, unknown Jean Sacha and his Eddie Constantine movies, Bertrand bobbles about talking direct to the camera and incorporating the odd bit of informational background. 

Georges de Beauregard
One such is the time devoted to the activity of Georges de Beauregard and his cottage industrial Rome-Paris Films. Film shot in the office shows Jean-Luc Godard on the phone and Georges de B. supposedly overseeing it all. One possibly tall tale has Claude Chabrol chuckling at a wheeze they pulled whereby Claude’s L'oeil du malin, France, 1962) was made for half the budget proposed thus enabling filming to be entirely funded by the German distributor’s advance. Still they also reported that at the first session of the film’s commercial season there wasn’t a single paid admission. What fun it must have been. 

Georges left a legacy of some forty films with maybe a good quarter of them forming a solid part of the backbone of the national filmography. Tavernier’s doco makes me especially want to see Pierre Schoendoerffer’s La 317eme section a film which here at least has eluded attention in its day and since.

I have long thought that if ever anybody wanted to try a different model of film-making beyond that of the deadening method whereby bureaucrats timidly allocate money for endless rounds of script development on a safety first basis, then you could do worse than backing a couple of producers like Georges de B, or Pierre Braunberger or Anatole Dauman. Simply tip a bucket of money their way, hope for the best and privatise all the guesswork. It would be more fun and eventually the piper’s tune would be called. 

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