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USA/France 1986
Directed by
Bertrand Tavernier
133 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Round Midnight

‘Round Midnight will be a must-see for be-bop fans and jazz and music lovers in general but others may find it too slow-moving and over-long.  

Based on the real life character of Francis Paudras, here called Francis Borler, and played  by François Cluzet, it tells the story of how a jazz-mad Parisian in the 1950s befriends be-bop legend Dale Turner, who has left New York to get away from his alcohol and narcotics addictions, and helps him get back on his feet.

Turner, a composite of jazz legends Bud Powell (who was the muso Paudras actually befriended) and Lester Young,is played by real-life tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon who whilst not the greatest actor (he was Oscar nominated for his performance) brings a telling authenticity to the role. Best of all, all the music, of which there is a goodly helping is played live by Gordon and a bevy of jazz luminaries including Herbie Hancock, who won an Oscar for his original score, Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin and Ron Carter.

Tavernier draws very much on the romance of the Parisian settings (the night street scenes outside the Blue Night were clearly shot a purpose-built set) and '50’s jazz boîte vibe,which makes for a nicely atmospheric film but dramatically he tends to overdo Francis’s obsessive concern for his idol. A lighter touch in this respect and some pruning here and there would have helped make this a more broadly engaging film. 




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