Very heavily edited, for obvious reasons.
Peña: I’m especially pleased, a little bit
nervous, to be talking to our guest today. He, aside from being a terrific filmmaker
in his own right, he’s truly a historian of Cinéma and truly wonderful critic
of Cinéma. Please welcome, Bertrand Tavernier. Bertrand, let me start at the
beginning. For everyone, I’d say for many people here, ther’s a passage where
you are a filmfan to a cinéphile when something happens and Cinéma means more
to you. Can you talk about that moment maybe in your life, when you think it
It happened very organically. But strangely
enough, I think I became very quickly, very early a cinéphile or a filmbuff
without realising that I was. Because at thirteen,
when I saw She Wore a Yellow Ribbon which made me, when I went out and said, I
want to do what he has done, Ford. [omitted.]
3. My first shock were american Films, [The Lives of a Bengal Lancer 1935] which I saw three times. And I still love that film and I still love Gary Cooper sending the dynamite while saying, “Poetry.”
Two or three years later, two years later, I
had the shock of La grande illusion and the discovery of the french Cinéma.
Especially La grande illusion and some of the films, like Le jour se lève, like
[Les enfants du Paradis] and all that, which changed my life. Made me think and
see the things differently.
5. Peña: And when did you actually start writing film criticism for publication?
6. I never wanted to do that. I had to do that in order to survive.
I’m not a critic, absolutely not
a critic, I didn’t want to be a critic. I
had to earn some money, because my parents did not want me to do work in Films.
And as I refused to go to
Law school, they said that I had to pay my rent. So the only thing I knew was to write, so I sold a few
articles, but it was only to survive. That was not because I wanted to become a
filmcritic and to be a part of it. And that allowed me to meet some people,
like Claude Sautet, Jean-Pierre Melville, who became my two Godfathers. Both of them went
to see my parents to say, Please, don’t try to stop Bertrand [from doing] work.
He wants to do it. And they were very, very nice to me.
7. I have to pay tribute to Ford, I became a director because of Ford. And in La princesse de Montpensier, there are some shots which are kind of tribute to Ford. It’s an homage to. I think, How Green Was My Valley, Grapes of Wrath, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and the Searchers, I saw thirty times each. I love those films. I think Ford made me love America. He was very résponsable in my désir to know this country, to know the History. After Grapes of Wrath, I read many books about the New Deal, about [FDR]. His films, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, I read books about the treatment of the Indians. In fact, I discovered many things. Most of my political, historical discovery, I made because of the film. | Both Orson Welles and Elia Kazan said, Part of the Genius of Ford was in having shot lasting ten, fifteen seconds more than everybody else would do in Hollywood and was giving incredible emotional impact. | And Ford, it’s part of the contradiction of Ford, Ford was sometimes flag-waving, but he was also the director who did the most beautiful shot of Army coming back from the War with people wounded, exhuasted, casualties. He filmed the War, but he also filmed the consequence of the War, the consequence of the violence, and it’s clear in the film like that. And strangely enough, the second part of the film has some link with one film I did. It’s [La vie et rien d’autre.] It’s about the people who are trying to find their grave, we are trying on the french battlefield. And the film tende the story who travels to France and try to find the grave of their son. And she goes, the main character, except that she’s full of Guilt, because she killed her son. It’s only at the end when she has done something nice and helped another woman that she would have the courage to put some flower of the grave of her son in Incredible moving shot, long tracking shot and she kneels on the grave. She’s asking forgiveness for the murder she committed.
8. Claude Autant-Lara was buried by [La Nouvelle Vague.], I think unfairly. It’s not that he was a pleasant guy. Sound of laughter. I don’t think he was. I knew him very well. We invited him to New York. I don’t think I have many points of common with him.
But he was, he has been a very, very interesting director,
sometimes a great director. And this film is very important for me to speak
because when I discovered the film, I decided that I wanted to work with the
two screenwriters who had written Douce . I thought the screenplay was so good, so modern,
so brilliant that I said, Let’s forget the fact that they are on the blacklist.
I wanted to meet them. And I wanted to meet them for another reason. The film
was made in 1942. As you know, France is occupied. [Omitted.] We lived such a
horrible series of event, [La débâcle de juin 1940], [L’armistice du 22 juin 1940], the
Propaganda of Vichy. The
triumph of the Stupidity and of the Lies, suddenly in a few films, you have people
writing intelligent dialogue, people who are showing characters which had
Dignity. For a lot of people, it was something that was conforting. I did a scene with one of my films, in [Laissez-faire.] where
there’s a discussion between Aurenche and Bost says, I’ve never been able to participate
in [la Résistance.] I have done nothing, nothing at all. “ But you wrote films. “ What is the use of writing films? “ He
says, You have people who make bread, you have people who make sheets, we make
stories. “ He says, What is the? “ We are putting a little light in the life of the people who make
bread and people who make sheet. And that’s it. We are giving a little light. [Accurate. Very patriotic.] And what they did, I think few
filmmakers, few french screenwriters in that time behaved extremely well.
People like Jacques Prévert, Jean Aurenche, Pierre Bost, Henri Jeanson, Charles
Spaak. Charles Spaak was in jail while writing a screenplay. [Omitted for
9. Of course, I belong to the generation marked by the famous statement of Trauffaut against british Cinéma. Maybe there’s something in the weather, the climate. There’s something incompatible between the Cinéma and the England. Sound of laughter. But already we’re starting to find that arguable. When one day, I remember I discover in a porn Cinéma, Peeping Tom. [Omitted.] Then a few years after, I decided to re-release Peeping Tom, to make a real re-release of the film, call the press and I invite Michael Powell, who come there. I wanted to meet him, because Jean-Pierre Melville had been talking about Michael Powell for years to me. He told me about thirty times the flashback in The Death of Colonel Blimp, the very famous flashback in the Turkish bath. I could not stand it anymore. And Melville said that he went to England to Jean de Gaulle [?] in order to see again the film. That was the reason for joining Free French.
10. I was always fascinated with actors. I wanted to become director because I wanted to meet Gary Cooper. Sound of laughter. He was my early Love, he still is. And Cooper was in many Westerns, so I was seeing all the film. And for me, everytime I was seeing Cooper, I had the impression of seeing [unclear]. [Omitted.]
11. Peña: I’m afraid that’s all we have time for.