For the 25th anniversary of French director Bertrand Tavernier’s “Round Midnight,” the Detroit Jazz Festival is bringing the Oscar-nominated film to the Michigan Theater. Starring jazz sensation Dexter Gordon, François Cluzet and Martin Scorsese, the film centers on the life of a New York jazz musician, Dale Turner (Gordon), and his journey to Paris.

‘Round Midnight

Thursday at 7 p.m.
Michigan Theater
From $7

“It’s a French film, only in English,” said Maxine Gordon, jazz archivist and widow of Dexter Gordon. “Bertrand wanted to do something like this for years, and finally he met Irwin Winkler who produced the Rocky movies, so he had a history of making big movies, and (Winkler) was very interested with the idea.”

The movie is based on a true story, one that took place in Paris between a saxophone tenor and his befriended companion who helped him acclimate to the foreign city and fight his battle with alcoholism.

“It’s a story about how a friendship changes both of them — changes the French man and changes the musician,” Gordon said. “At first it leans towards him helping the musician, because of his drinking and other problems, but in the end, it balances and they help each other. This story led (Tavarnier) to the script.”

Gordon recalled her husband’s time on set, discussing the difficulties the actors faced. Although most were jazz musicians and familiar with the music it was much more than simply projecting themselves onto the screen.

“It looks like it’s easy when they’re playing,” Gordon said.

Gordon said that the fused actor-musicians all practiced, worked and created for hours at a time despite their thorough, professional background.

“It shows what it takes, the emotional drain and the more serious aspect of being a jazz musician,” Gordon said.

Of all movies that attempt to portray jazz musicians and their lives, Gordon said that this movie is the closest to the real thing, even going so far as to have all its music recorded live.

“Because all the music is recorded live, it makes it very interesting and very riveting; you really see the process of them playing and improvising on stage.” Gordon explained. “They had to do the best they could, but mistakes were left in. People say ‘in the beginning, they don’t sound as together as they do in the end,’ but that’s what happens!”

Similarly to a musician joining an ensemble in the middle of the season, all performers had to familiarize themselves with each other.

Gordon added: “By the end of the film, they sound much better. For me, that’s the best part.”

“The movie holds up,” concluded Gordon, who will be preside with a live presentation and question-and-answer session directly following the screening. “I’ve seen it a lot, and each time I say ‘Oh God, I’m going to have to sit through it again’ and each time I see something else, something new and different.

“Not all movies hold up this long, and have the same effect as when they premiered, but this one definitely holds its own.”

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