Bertrand Tavernier, French Director of ‘A Sunday in the Country,’ Dies at 79

Writer, cinephile and film critic also directed “‘Round Midnight” and “The Clockmaker of St. Paul”

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Bertrand Tavernier, a French director, screenwriter and film critic known for his films “The Clockmaker of St. Paul,” “‘Round Midnight” and “A Sunday in the Country,” has died. He was 79.

Tavernier came up in the wake of the French New Wave in the ’60s and was a BAFTA Award winner for the film “Life and Nothing But.”

His relatives told the French publication La Croix that he died in Sainte-Maxime in the Var region of southeastern France.

Inspired by filmmakers like Jean Vigo, Jean Renoir and John Ford, Tavernier began his career in the ’60s in France, writing for the PEN club and aspiring to become a filmmaker like many of his French New Wave peers. He did early work alongside director Jean-Pierre Melville and then went on to win the Silver Bear from the Berlin Film Festival for “The Clockmaker of St. Paul” in 1974.

He was best known for his films with actor Philippe Noiret, including “The Clockmaker” and “Coup de Torchon,” and won four César Awards throughout his decade-spanning career.

The Directors Guild of America, which honored Tavernier in 2004 with a DGA Honor, issued a pair of statements Thursday about the director’s passing.

“We at the DGA mourn the loss of Bertrand Tavernier, a great director and a great friend of directors. Our Guild’s strong bond with Bertrand dates back four decades as we joined together in our advocacy of the filmmakers’ right to be in control of the integrity of their work, beginning with our shared fight against the colorization of black and white films,” past DGA president Taylor Hackford said. “I had a running dialogue with Bertrand for many years – he knew as much about cinema as anyone I’ve ever known. My two favorite Tavernier films are: “Coup de Torchon,” the best adaptation of a Jim Thompson novel EVER, and “Capitaine Conan,” a brilliant and totally unique treatment of World War I. As a man, Bertrand was funny and caustic at the same time – he lived his passion.”

In addition to his work as a director and screenwriter, Tavernier was also an advocate for cinema and its preservation, and was a film critic whose work appeared in Cahiers du cinéma, Positif and Cinéma. He’s the author of the “50 ans de cinéma Américain,” (originally “30 ans” and republished in 1991) an encyclopedic overview of American films dating back 50 years. Tavernier also led the the Institut Lumière film foundation, working with Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux.

“The loss of Bertrand Tavernier is a loss for cinema, and for directors around the world,” director Michael Mann said in a statement. “More than a legendary French filmmaker, more than a champion of cinema, he quite literally wrote the book on Hollywood film in France with his treasured ’30 ans de cinéma Américain.’ A great raconteur, his wit and charm filled many evenings over the years. We will forever be grateful for having had the privilege to have known him.”

His final film was “My Journey Through French Cinema,” a documentary from 2016 that focused on lesser known auteurs from France and abroad. The film was expanded into a TV documentary series the following year.

Some of Tavernier’s other credits include “It All Starts Today” and “Holy Lola,” both of which he co-wrote with his daughter Tiffany.

Bertrand Tavernier is survived by his son, filmmaker and actor Nils Tavernier, and his daughter, author and screenwriter Tiffany Tavernier.


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