French director Bertrand Tavernier dished out some well-earned wisdom during 90-minute public talk with New Orleans documentary filmmaker Michelle Benoit. The talk was among the last events I attended at the New Orleans Film Festival. Tavernier just finished shooting “In the Electric Mist” (which he refused to talk about) in New Iberia and St. Martinville.
Why should you care about Tavernier? He directed “The Clockmaker” (1974), “Let Joy Reign Supreme” (1975), “Clean Slate” (1981), “A Sunday in the Country” (1984), and the very important jazz film “’Round Midnight” (1986). He is also president of Institut Lumiere in Lyon, France.
Below are random excerpts from his talk.
On actors who make distinct character choices: “To me, there are actors you can test in a job and those who are problems. … It’s (about) making them work and bringing me ideas.”
On working with a classroom full of kids for “It All Starts Today”: “To be a teacher to those kids is to be an actor. You have to grab their attention.”
On not writing down ideas: “I’ve never used any kind of storyboard. I have it in my head.”
On the camera and focusing on characters who are trying to hide something (like being drunk): “Close-ups can be immoral.”
On “3:10 to Yuma,” both the original and James Mangold’s remake: “The first version showed that killing was important, that it had consequences. (In the new version) killing is like in a videogame. You can kill 20 people like that. I found that horrifying. That disgusts me … people who live without any consequences for their acts.” (He also hated “The Brave One” for similar reasons.)
On younger viewers and violent imagery in today’s movies: “They have to learn how not to be totally submissive to those images.”