In Bertrand Tavernier’s Round Midnight, legendary musician Dexter Gordon—in his first acting role, mind you—plays a brilliant and alcoholic saxophonist, Dale Turner. Based on the jazz greats Bud Powell and Lester Young, Dale is freer to do as he pleases as a Black man in Europe, escaping the prejudices of bookers back in the United States. But he mostly slumps around the streets of post-war Paris drinking, gallivanting, and somehow managing to make it to his gigs on time. Dale’s life changes, however, when a passionate French fan and single dad Francis (played by Dustin Hoffman’s Gallic twin, François Cluzet), takes him under his wing and cares for him in a totally not-at-all homoerotic way.
Though I think Dale sometimes has a whiff of the inscrutable Magical Negro, Gordon plays him with so much charm and nuance that he becomes fully fleshed-out character. And, by God, the music! Herbie Hancock’s incandescent, Oscar-winning score is truly what makes the film shine. Round Midnight is a delightful snapshot of the Paris jazz scene in the ’50s. A young Martin Scorsese even makes an appearance. (I think he’s kinda hot!) The film was previously unstreamable before the good folks over at the Criterion Collection restored and re-released it this year. This particular showing of Round Midnight is presented at The Beacon by Hillman City’s wonderful Slow Boat Tavern. It’s gonna be a good one.
Round Midnight is screening at The Beacon on Tuesday, July 5 at 7:30 pm. Get your tickets here.