The news has just been announced, implacable and horrifying: Bertrand Tavernier has just died, in the year of his eightieth birthday. With his death, a total man of cinema disappears, having led a life entirely 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, scriptwriter and producer, before directing his debut feature film, The Clockmaker of Saint-Paul in 1974, adapted from a novel by Georges Simenon. He followed it with, to mention just a few, Let Joy Reign Supreme, The Judge and the Assassin, Spoiled Children, Death Watch, A Week's Vacation, Coup de torchon, Mississippi Blues, A Sunday in the Country, to Quai d'Orsay in 2013. We should add his love of jazz ('Round Midnight in 1986), and his knowledge of history (Beatrice, Life and Nothing But, The Undeclared War, etc.).
Within the French film industry, but also at the international level, he exercised a kind of moral and political "mastery" whose legitimacy, acquired through the various functions he performed throughout his life, no one could contest. The defense of auteur cinema (his militant and constant commitment within the SACD), ran parallel to his championing of French or foreign filmmakers unjustly ignored and forgotten, his taste for heritage cinema, and his historic role as president of the Institut Lumière where he played the role of mentor of Thierry Frémaux, its general director.
Bertrand Tavernier spoke of cinema, early or contemporary, with delight and generosity, demonstrating a perfect knowledge of its mysteries, whether it was pre-war and post-war French cinema – see his admirable series A Journey Through French Cinema, consisting of numerous episodes –, but also American, English, Italian cinema, etc. He embodied a form of universal cinephilia, generous and meticulous, in every way a "connoisseur," never ceasing to marvel at the discovery of treasures, showing an extraordinary curiosity that he loved more than anything to share with others. Through a prolific body of work (shorts and more than thirty films, fictions, and documentaries), he directed the greatest actors and actresses of French cinema. Bertrand Tavernier was never stingy with advice and recommendations, books, records, or films. He lived for cinema and culture, within the reach of everyone. This was the meaning of his commitment, both political and moral. The cause of his whole life.