Saturday, February 18, 2006
On Set ... ZONE LIBRE
I need to stop having days like this; it can only lead to inevitable disappointment later in life. But I will enjoy it for the moment, tant pis! I spent the morning on a movie set in a cemetery right outside of Paris. I had coffee with Lionel Abelanski, a French actor, last week and he invited me to the set of his latest film, Zone Libre, a World War II drama starring Abelanski, Mathilde Seigner (whom you may recognize from Tout Pour Plaire) and Jean Paul Roussillon, and directed by Christophe Malavoy, well-known French actor who recently hopped into the director's chair. After being separated in order to pass the demarcation lines,
Simon and his family (namely his wife Lea, his pregnant step sister Mauricette, Madame Schwartz who only speaks Yiddish and his 11-year old nephew Henri) find themselves in the middle of the countryside, welcomed by Maury, a local peasant who hides them in one of his outbuildings as two different worlds come together. I was present for the final shooting day, a three-hour shoot in the Bagneux Cemetery for a 20-second sequence in the film. The scene is a voiced-over sequence so the actors only needed to go through the actions for the camera. I arrived at the cemetery and found my way to the line of trailers and trucks filled with equipment. I was welcomed by a costumed Lionel Abelanski who gave me coffee as I conversed with the technical team before the shoot began. Everyone was so friendly, and I really felt part of the shoot. I stood next to the director and watched the action from a small screen used for editing. The assistant director would yell "on va répéter!" (let's rehearse!) and then "on va tourner!" (let's film it!) and finally "action!" (pronounced actseeeeon!) I leafed through Malavoy's personal copy of the script and it was so interesting to see his notes and
drawings. I introduced myself to Malavoy and he was very affable and spoke to me about my thesis (which I wrote about French films about the Holocaust and World War II), my grant and his film. It was so exciting to be on a film set; it made me realize that I really do
want to be a part of creative cinema production as a career. I left the cemetery and took a bus to the heart of Chatillon where my roommate in Paris and friend from Dartmouth is currently teaching English in an elementary school. I visited her classroom and met her students, I really enjoyed witnessing life in a French school, and the children were adorable!
I then went back into central Paris where I had lunch in my favorite café on the rue de Seine in the sixth arrondissement, then walked around the sixth for hours, shopping in my favorite boutiques near St.Germain-des-Pres and then walking along the Seine, around St. Michel and in front of Notre Dame. The sun was shining and I let my thoughts wander; the French have a verb for this, "flâner." All of the great French thinkers were "flâneurs," having a conversation with Paris itself as they wandered aimlessly. As the cliché goes, "I found myself in Paris!" This may be a cliché, but it couldn't be more true. Where else in the world can you walk along the Seine on a sunny day, munching on a pastry in one hand and scratching your head with the other, pondering the meaning of life? The "flâneur" is never lonely because he or she has fallen in love with the city. I've made some amazing friends and have met some incredible people during my time here in Paris, but I must say that some of my favorite moments have been " toute seule" just breathing in the Parisian air (and trying not to choke on all of the cigarette smoke in it!) and walking and thinking. . Sure, I was ostensibly the epitome of tourist, with my shopping bags and frequent demands of passersby to take my picture, but I couldn't have felt more at home. See? I told you, Paris has spoiled me for life. =)