Having received an “ A “ for my ceramic alligator in High School art class(So good my Mother never believed I made it !) and able to change guitar strings unaided, it did occur to me that a film destined for a predominately English speaking market, should present a majority of English speakers. So, in a Provencal village, one sweltering July day, I posed the non-musical question : “Yo dude……..where be da English speakers?” About six houses away. According to the two exuberant pre-teen boys who answered the door I knocked on. Scrambling to their bikes, they led me to the house of Rene.
Solidly built. Early fifties. Expensive haircut. I hit him with my two best lines : “Bonjour” and, “Parlez vous Anglais?” Rene’s answer was affirmative. But with a strangley guarded tone. Unsure of his level of comprehension, I went slowly, trying not to sound like I was explaining television to a caveman. As Rene began to grok my cinematic mission, a soft smile lit his face. “You’ve come at exactly the right time” he replied, in perfect English.
Beckoning me to follow, We mounted a gently sloping hill, away from the village. Rene was born here. But, every Winter, He returns to his restaurant. In Miami Beach! So – no worries about his English ability. Approaching the crest of the hill – a rambling provencal mas(stone house, unique to provence) came into view. With an equally rambling yard, dotted with long rectangular tables. Gleaming with silver, and most importantly, stemware! Obviously a party waiting to happen!!
As We started down the driveway, a very relaxed cluster o’ folks ambled forward. With big smiles, and generous glasses of rose. I was half right. It was going to be a party! But not today. Tommorrow. And it was more than a party. It was a baptism celebration. Which would also go down tomorrow. Wisely, before the corks popped. Soooo.. after introductions, three more glasses of rose, lunch, and an invite to film their historic event, I toured the village to shoot what worked now, and scope things out for the big day.
It was warm, but not muggy that night. With glistening stars hovering at one hundred feet. The village was silent. Except for occasional faint conversations. Ebbing and flowing like programs colliding on short wave radio. And dogs. Exchanging the day’s news.
Filming the baptisim was definitely one of my top five “most challenging cinematic moments.” Ok – I am invited. But, this is, for them, a very solem and important occasion……..so I gots to be as invisible/quiet as possible. And somehow – still get the shots.
Chew on this : The small church is basically a dungeon. Small windows at the back, no light overhead, and a few altar candles. The faithful are assembled on wooden pews. In front of yer standard issue balding padre. He will be pontificating on a small stage in front, with tiny windows behind. Additional lights, which I don’t got anyway, would be a definite “faux pas.”
Soooo…as inobtrusively as it’s possible for someone six foot two, with a purple mohawk, in a sequined day-glow orange pantsuit slinking around with a tripod to be, I must find a way to shoot the audience from the Priest’s point of view, the Priest from the audience’s point of view, plus capturing the “baptees.” The two blissful free spirits, who have not yet been programmed to realize, dropping your bottle in church (even if it is plastic) is a big “no-no.”
I must now confess, dear reader, that it was luck, not skill, that must be credited for the last shot of the priest mock tossing one of the kids in the air. The only difficulty filming the fiesta that followed, was the constant admonition of my hosts to : “Put that camera down and enjoy yourself!” No worries. In a party that was to last thirteen plus hours, I did manage a few “non-camera moments.”
Here’s one : I’m submerged in a lawn chair by the pool. (Just like the Beverly Wilshire, but with no phones!) Rose in hand. Chatting up a very attractive Mlle. perched languorously a cote. Ok – I’m a little toasted. But, I can still speak in coherent sentences, without slurring words, drooling, or having eyes close without being asked. It is then, glazed by the warm Provencal sun, the “Eureka Moment” arrives. I am flirting with this girl – IN FRENCH – and She understands!! She understands. But She has an early train. Ah love!
Seventy litres of rose, who knows how much Champagne, two spit-roasted lambs, accordion music up the yin-yang, tons o’ talk, mirth, merriment, bonding, and thirteen hours later….the baptism bash be history. One that no doubt will be repeated in twenty-five or so years time, by the two guests of honor. Who have, somehow, managed to sleep through it all.