My Journey Through French Cinema Screen 11 articles

My Journey Through French Cinema


My Journey Through French Cinema Poster
  • The first of a projected series, this is Bertrand Tavernier's very personal, illuminating three-hour-plus waltz through my favorite of the great world cinemas... Given one lifetime, we may never get to see all of the films quoted here, but at least a lifelong connoisseur has given us a taste of the best.

  • Part of the film's charm derives from Tavernier's recollections of the various theaters where he saw particular films and the circumstances of each screening. He rattles off the names of movie theaters with an intensity that begets a mythology unto its own, just as the Cinémathèque Française would become synonymous with the French New Wave

  • While [Tavernier's] analysis of Renoir’s staging strategies is lucid aces, often Tavernier speaks in vague ways of various directors’ virtues (force, vigor, clarity), failing to translate his enthusiasm into something I can perceive myself; he’s on much more solid ground delving into the collaborative production particulars of various figures, as in clarifying the back-and-forth casting et al. disputes between Carné and Jacques Prevert.

  • The best guides to film history are generally opinionated and very personal, and that’s what My Journey Through French Cinema offers to both eager-to-learn newcomers—who might be turned off by the running time, but shouldn’t be—and self-appointed experts: a selective, eccentric survey of the richest periods of French moviemaking and, by extension, film in general.

  • The movie is not just a niche film but a film for a niche of a niche. Rather than being ideal for people who know a bit about French cinema and want to know more, it’s best suited to people who know a considerable amount about French cinema (and culture) of the early sound era and want to delve deeper.

  • It could be argued that Tavernier’s latest film is the most overtly personal of his works, essentially an autobiographical account of his apprenticeship as a cinephile... The three-hour film is at once a pendant to Tavernier’s and Jean-Pierre Coursodon’s book 50 Ans de Cinéma Américain and the director’s answer to the rather more omnivorous 1995 A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies.

  • What results from Tavernier’s lengthy analysis — apparently the first in a planned two-part series — is a vision of the French cinema that, even if it sticks to certain ideals of the politique des auteurs, doesn’t ignore the work of other contributors (including a major screenwriter like Henri Jeanson), while revealing the artistry of filmmakers whose popular sensibilities go against our notion of le cinema francais as something freewheeling and deeply individualistic.

  • Tavernier’s journey is a deeply personal one, at once reverent and unapologetically honest about the limitations of his heroes, the kind of close criticism that can result only from respect and intimate knowledge. It is also a shining example of what appears to be a growing genre: the documentary examination and celebration of the art of narrative cinema in the shadow of its evolution into a specialty item within the broader landscape of audiovisual entertainment.

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    Film Comment: Joan Dupont
    September 03, 2016 | September/October 2016 Issue (p. 47)

    It is an ingenious mix of the personal and the historical in which Tavernier tells tales about venerated masters as well as recounts his own story.

  • It makes you want to see the films under discussion, or see them again, in a new light. But more than just a model for what movies to watch, it offers a refresher course in how to talk about what you’ve been looking at. Throughout his opus, Tavernier displays an admirable characteristic that is largely absent from contemporary criticism. Rather than fortifying “for” and “against” positions, he considers what is worthy of praise and rebuke in the work of each figure that he addresses.

  • Bertrand Tavernier’s “My Journey Through French Cinema” delivers what it promises. Even so, its explanatory title doesn’t begin to convey just how exhilarating or inspiring a documentary this truly is, and how excellent a trip this well-respected French director takes you on. Deep, thoughtful, immersive, specific yet also wide-reaching, it is an exploration of French cinema by one of its own.

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