'Round Midnight, a film inspired by the lives of Bud Powell and Lester Young, is director Bertrand Tavernier's audio-visual lament for the impending death of jazz. Tavernier utilizes a roving camera and be-bop editing to tell this story of the relationship between a self-destructive, emotionally-disintegrating but technically-brilliant jazz legend (Dexter Gordon) living and working in exile in France, and his fawning Gaullic admirer (Francois Cluzet). A subtle chauvinism underlies the story, as America is the land that devours its genius, while France succors it. The startlingly authentic performance of real-life tenor-sax legend and non-actor Dexter Gordon in the lead role is a stroke of genius. His raspy staccato delivery captures the world-weariness of his character perfectly, while he and fellow players' [including John McLaughlin] superb musicianship in the key performance passages adds an important element of authenticity and verisimilitude to the proceedings (all performances were filmed live, with no post-production dubbing). Herbie Hancock's Academy Award-winning musical helmsmanship layers the film with a moody melancholia, allowing it to tell its story with jazz riffs as much as words. The story is thinly-plotted, lyrical, and romantic, guided by the spirit of the art form it celebrates ...
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