Serge Toubiana and Antonin Baudry pay tribute to Bertrand Tavernier

French cinema continues to pay its respects

by Anne-Katrin Titze

The Wolf’s Call director and Quai d'Orsay writer Antonin Baudry: “Bertrand Tavernier was not only a wonderful, unique filmmaker, who made essential images of our history and society.”
The Wolf’s Call director and Quai d'Orsay writer Antonin Baudry: “Bertrand Tavernier was not only a wonderful, unique filmmaker, who made essential images of our history and society.” Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

When Harry Dean Stanton died in 2017, I reached out to Bertrand Tavernier for a remembrance of the man who starred opposite Romy Schneider in Death Watch (La Mort En Direct). He sent a lovely tribute and wrote to me “CORRECT THE MISTAKES”. In 2014, when Bertrand presented his masterpiece Coup De Torchon at Hunter College he told me: “I said to Philippe Noiret, in this film I want you to play each scene without thinking of the scene before or the scene after.” Discussing The French Minister (based on Antonin Baudry's Quai d'Orsay): “I was thinking, as a matter of rhythm, of some of the comedies of Billy Wilder or Jacques Becker. People who were doing films with some great tempo and making very, very funny things out of moments which could be very dramatic.”

Anne-Katrin Titze on Bertrand Tavernier: “Over the years we stayed in touch through e-mail exchanges. I will very much miss him.”
Anne-Katrin Titze on Bertrand Tavernier: “Over the years we stayed in touch through e-mail exchanges. I will very much miss him.” Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

The day before the opening of the 54th New York Film Festival, I met with Bertrand Tavernier at Lincoln Center for an in-depth conversation on his documentary My Journey Through French Cinema. Over the years we stayed in touch through e-mail exchanges. I will very much miss him.

UniFrance President Serge Toubiana and Antonin Baudry sent remembrances in honour of Bertrand Tavernier who died on March 25, 2021.

Serge Toubiana’s tribute for Bertrand Tavernier (translated from the French by Anne-Katrin Titze):

“The news has just been announced, implacable and horrifying: Bertrand Tavernier has died in the year he would have turned 80 [*April 25 1941]. A man of the cinema through and through has left us, a man who has led a life completely dedicated and devoted to the art of film, lived with passion, intransigence, intelligence, and generosity. He was in turn press agent, critic and journalist, assistant director, screenwriter and producer before he directed his first feature film L’Horloger De Saint-Paul in 1974, adapted from the novel by Georges Simenon. He followed it with, to name a few, Que La Fête Commence, Le Juge Et l’Assassin, Des Enfants Gâtés, La Mort En Direct, Une Semaine De Vacances, Coup De Torchon, Mississippi Blues, Un Dimanche À La Campagne, up to Quai d’Orsay in 2013. We should add his love of jazz (Autour De Minuit in 1986), and his knowledge of history (La Passion Béatrice, La Vie Et Rien d’Autre, La Guerre Sans Nom, etc.). Inside the realm of French cinema but equally on an international level, he exercised a kind of moral and political authority whose legitimacy nobody could contest, acquired through the different functions he held throughout his life.

“The defence of auteur cinema (his militant and constant engagement with the SACD), and of those filmmakers, French or from abroad, who were undeservedly unrecognized or forgotten, his taste for cinema heritage, his historic role as president of the Institut Lumière, where he played a sort of mentor role to Thierry Frémaux, its general director. Bertrand Tavernier spoke of cinema, old or contemporary, with delight and generosity, displaying a perfect knowledge of its arcana, be it pre-war or post-war French cinema - see his praiseworthy series Voyage à travers le cinéma français which consists of numerous episodes - but equally of American, English or Italian cinema, etc.

Serge Toubiana on Bertrand Tavernier: “He lived for cinema and for culture, within everyone’s reach.”
Serge Toubiana on Bertrand Tavernier: “He lived for cinema and for culture, within everyone’s reach.” Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

“He was the incarnation of a kind of universal cinephilia that is generous and punctilious, always a ‘connoisseur,’ never ceasing to be astounded by the discovery of treasures, manifesting extraordinary curiosity that he more than anything liked to share with others. Throughout his prolific œuvre (short films and more than thirty features, fiction as well as documentary), he directed the greatest actors and the greatest actresses of French cinema. Bertrand Tavernier was never stingy with advice and recommendations, books, records, or films. He lived for cinema and for culture, within everyone’s reach. This was the meaning of his commitment, at the same time political and moral. The cause of his entire life.” - Serge Toubiana

Antonin Baudry’s tribute in honour of his friend and mentor:

“Bertrand Tavernier was not only a wonderful, unique filmmaker, who made essential images of our history and society. He was also the best expert as well in French as in American cinema, a living memory of films, directors and ideas. He was a generous man. To me, he was a mentor. When we worked together on The French Minister he told me: ‘Don’t ask me which films I like or don’t like, I love them all.’ Maybe his wide open eyes are what made his own films so singular, his style so inimitable.” - Antonin Baudry

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