Round Midnight | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Round Midnight 

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Bertrand Tavernier's exquisitely crafted tribute (1986) to American jazz great Bud Powell is screening locally (in 16-millimeter) for the first time in 11 years. The director's perenially heavy mood seems especially well suited to this indigo-shaded story of a black American saxman (Dexter Gordon) living and performing in Paris in the late 50s, though the point here is the music (enlarging on Tavernier's well-known affection for American blues-jazz idioms): the not-quite-satisfactory relationship Tavernier concocts between Gordon's alcoholic musician and a chirrupy young Frenchman who becomes his self-appointed protector seems little more than a dramatic excuse for the performances that flow around it. Gordon's remarkable as the emotionally disarranged, psychologically disintegrating jazzman, and when the little Frenchman calls him a genius, you suddenly realize what that overused term implies: not moral worthiness or superior personhood but a giftedness beyond accounting that hardly belongs to character at all. With Francois Cluzet, Gabrielle Haker, Lonette McKee, and a slew of topflight jazz performers (Herbie Hancock, Bobby Hutcherson, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Freddie Hubbard). R, 131 min. a Thu 11/2, 9 PM, Univ. of Chicago Doc Films.

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