"From spring to winter, without dread / From winter back to vernal places ... " - Jaroslav Siefert
1 from Criterion
'Round Midnight (France, 1989)
Art imitates life, and in 'Round Midnight bebop legend Dexter Gordon plays a New York tenor saxophonist who decamps to Paris in the late 1950s to get off the booze and kickstart his career in a city grooving to the hip tunes of the new and exciting jazz américain. Soon he's befriended by an adoring fan (played by François Cluzet of Les intouchables fame), who helps him go on the wagon and stay there, even inviting the jazzman to come live with him and his young daughter in their tiny apartment. In the end, pretty much sober and with a new lust for life, the American reciprocates by inviting the Frenchman to accompany him back to New York, where he re-establishes himself musically on home ground and takes time out emotionally to renew his relationship with his own daughter. But will the recovery last? With a soundtrack of jazz standards performed live-to-camera and augmented by a Grammy-winning original score by Herbie Hancock, in its 133 minutes the movie scans at all levels. First, it's a love letter to the golden age of bebop artists and to the progressive Parisians who welcomed them; the film is loosely based on the lives of expatriate jazzmen Bud Powell and Lester Young, and of their friend, the French jazz patron Francis Paudras, from whose memoir La danse des infidèles the film's story was sourced). Second, it's a sonic exploration led by a cosmopolitan Frenchmen (director Bertrand Tavernier, working with American co-writer David Rayfiel) who was fascinated by Black America and its unique music. And third, 'Round Midnight is remembered as a triumph of Gordon himself, who did double-duty as script revisor and leading man, winding up Oscar-nominated for his performance. Newly restored in 4K, 'Round Midnight has now been transferred to Blu-ray by U.S. distributor Criterion with a number of excellent extras. There's an hour-long documentary from 1986 called "Before Midnight" that features outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage of the film; new half-hour interviews with veteran jazz critic Gary Giddins and with music producer Michael Cuscuna and Gordon's widow and biographer, Maxine Gordon; a 40-minute post-screening discussion at Columbia University in 2014 featuring Tavernier, Cuscuna, Maxine Gordon and jazz scholar John Szwed, moderated by jazz critic and broadcaster Mark Ruffin; and finally, 12 minutes of archival footage of the six-foot-five Dexter Gordon towering over his bandmates Kenny Drew, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen and Makaya Ntshoko on stage at the Jazzhouse Montmartre in 1969 and playing his tune "Fried Bananas". For audio – so important here – you have a choice of two DTS-HD English-language tracks remastered from the original 35mm film, one in stereo and other in 5.1 surround sound. The foldout liner notes are by scholar Mark Anthony Neal, who concludes: "'Round Midnight honors the spirit, resilience and brilliance of a generation of artists whose music will continue to be appreciated, even as their humanity wll largely be forgotten."