11th June 2021
Part Seven. London. July 1995
This was not how things were supposed to be. Alan was meant to be making contacts, writing scripts, raising funds, shooting test footage, hanging out in cafés discussing Neo-Realism and the Nouvelle Vague, dissecting scripts and camera set-ups, meeting gorgeous actresses, he was meant to be making cinema.
Instead, he was working forty hours a week and spending an extra ten hours on the Tube. Most of his money went on a bedsit that he hated, and travel money, which he resented. He went to the cinema on Mondays when it was cheaper, but often fell asleep half way through a film.
He was twenty-two but felt old and exhausted. It was a time when he should be energetic and enthusiastic, but he saw his life fading away, not in great, dramatic spurts, but like a slow puncture, the air irreparably escaping.
He hated his life, his job, London. He was barely surviving and had spent a whole year since graduating with absolutely nothing to show for it.
But he couldn’t see any way out, except to make a great film and have it shown at festivals and from there be offered a chance to make a real film.
This great film needed to be written and cast and shot and printed and edited and screened. So far, a scattering of disconnected ideas and theories. Nothing else.
It was his sister that offered a way out.
He loved his older sister, she was probably his closest friend, though he bemoaned her taste in cinema. While he was at the National Film Theatre, seeing old Black and White subtitled art films, she’d be in the multi-screens with popcorn and giant Cokes immediately forgetting the film she had just seen.
She agreed to differ about their taste in film. He didn’t.
It was during one of these harangues that she casually mentioned an offer from Berlin that she’d have to decline. Kelly, her friend in Berlin, had a spare room, as her flatmate was going travelling the whole summer, and wondered if she would like to rent it. However having just started a new job, Jo Francis thought it best to try to build a career, rather than have fun; besides, she had ‘done’ Berlin.
“Maybe you should go,” she said to Alan, in an off-hand, flippant way. Then she sat up. “Yes, maybe you should. Kelly’s boyfriend is an actor. Does readings and performances, based on some old French poems.”
“Rambo ? Are you bonkers ?”
“No . . . the symbolist poet, the . . . how is it possible we are from the same gene pool ?”
“Well, the milkman was awfully sweet, I’ve been told.”
“Very droll. But . . . an actor ? What’s he like ?”
“Stunning. Long flowing hair, big old army coat, all brass and ribbon. Always wears boots. Good idea in Berlin. Lots of dog poop. “
“How much is the rent ?”
Alan heard the amount needed.
“Per week ?”
“No, Sweetheart, per month. Can probably get work there, too. Vincent, oh, that is the boyfriend . . . “
“I know, flowing hair and boots.”
“Yes, really yummy ! Vincent knows just everybody. Would you like me to write to her.”
“Could you call instead ?”
“Oh, you’re all enthusiastic, how adorable.”
After booking his flight, with money borrowed from his sister, Alan went into Fordham’s Books & Tapes and picked up a ‘Complete Rimbaud’, ‘Poems of Villon’ and an anthology of French poets from Nerval to Valery. Naturally, he had to visit the Cinema section, where he found ‘Godard on Godard’ in paperback. Finally, on the ground floor, Alan found the ‘Rough Guide to Berlin,’ the illustrated cover showing a decidedly European cafe scene, very cinematic. What better omen ?
Without even meeting Vincent, he decided that he would be his actor, a Belmondo to his Godard, a Mastroiani to his Fellini.
Now, all he needed was an idea.
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