Wednesday, June 11, 2008

'Round Midnight (Bertrand Travernier, 1986) C

'Round Midnight is one of the strangest films I have ever seen that was nominated for a major Oscar (Best Actor in this case). Director Bertrand Travernier is more concerned with the music of fictional jazz legend Dale Turner (played by real-life jazz legend Dexter Gordon) than in the main plot concerning Turner's alcoholism or his friendship with longtime fan Francis Borler (François Cluzet). I guess this film would be a lot more interesting if you enjoyed jazz music, but since I don't (I prefer classical saxophone myself) I found most of the music sections dreadfully boring. The mood and atmosphere of 'Round Midnight are rather interesting, but they alone can't make a whole film, and with such a flimsy story supporting everything the film falls apart. Dexter Gordon's nomination really perplexes me because all this performance has going for him is his saxophone playing, raspy voice and the alcoholism (which the Academy loves almost as much as hookers with a heart of gold). That's seriously all Gordon has to go on, so by the two hour mark you are just exasperated at the shallowness of this performance. It's certainly not the worst Best Actor nominated performance, but it's not one that I would like to see imitated. Thank God for Cluzet's hero-worshiping Francis, which keeps the film moving and, at times, manages to make Gordon look good.

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