Clockmaker, The (L\'Horloger de Saint-Paul) (France,1973) ***1/2
Directed by Bertrand Tavernier. Written by Jean Aurenche, Pierre Bost, Bertrand Tavernier, from the novel "L'Horloger d'Everton" by Georges Simenon. Cast: Philippe Noiret, Jean Rochefort, Jacques Denis, et al. Photography, Pierre-William Glenn. Editing, Armand Psenny. Music, Philippe Sarde. Eastmancolor. 105 minutes.
Bertrand Tavernier's first feature is a gem. Set in Lyon ( where the director was born and grew up), it deal with the son of a clock maker. The young man is arrested for a political crime.
His devastated father (Philippe Noiret) stands by him. Noiret (who later often worked again with Tavernier) delivers an extraordinarily superior performance.
But he film goes well beyond plot, and into thoughtful views of life and politics. The source book is by a master of sensitive suspense stories in which the psychological, social and intellectual aspects play a major role. These place Simenon well above the thriller category and into "literature."
The rest of the performances are top-notch too, and so is the use of the Lyon locations that Tavernier knew and understood so well. He was about 31 when he made this picture. He followed "The Clockmaker" with close to 30 features (I am writing this in 2001) of superb quality and in an astounding variety of genres.
A fascinatingly knowledgeable film scholar, an Americanophile, a major connoisseur of jazz, a fine gourmet and chef, Tavernier belongs to the Pantheon of directors. Super-talented, well-educated, original, versatile, humorous yet serious, this master of film has always drawn superior performances from his actors.
He rapidly took his place among the Second Wave of French cinema that followed the late 50s and 60s French New Wave. Without a doubt, Tavernier is among the greatest filmmakers --of all countries-- in the last three decades of the 20th century.