Waiting Fo (u) r Godard: A play for one actor & two laptops

5th August 2020

WAITING FO(U)R GODARD by Paul Pacifico

Copyright 2020. Paul Pacifico asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work

Anyone is free to perform this play, royalty-free

If significant revenue is generated, then I merely ask that the actor or company make a donation to a cancer charity, UNICEF or the WWF

Have fun and break a leg

The play can use the actor’s real name and list their credits, for example the actor in the script is called James Green and he performed in ‘Krapp’s Last Tape,’ among other theatre, film and TV.

Directors are free to add their own ideas to localise the play.

BLACK

SOUND FX : The end of the world.

: Silence.

: Increasing sound of insects scuttling about.

: This fades as sound of a projector starts, very loud.

: Projector volume drops, but continues. Seagulls.

: Still with projector noise, various traffic and city sounds, cut in at random, at different levels. Ends with a loud bicycle bell.

LIGHTS

The stage has two tables at front, left and right, each with an open laptop (facing away from audience), one Windows, one Apple. Around the stage are symbols of film making: tripods, cameras, lights etc. as well as one old chair.

One door, upstage

Sound of knocking on door

MAN enters and, with a little trepidation, looks around. Closes door carefully. He is wearing a light brown raincoat covering a shirt and tie. He carries a slip of paper on which is written, ‘MAN’

MAN : Is this the place ?

Man seems encouraged when he notices the equipment. He looks around and slowly paces the room

MAN : Only me here. Hello ? Hello ? Maybe I should call my agent.

Man pulls out a mobile phone, tries calling, then walks around room holding phone out at different angles

Man : Can’t get a reception. Merde ! Ok, better warm up the voice.

Man changes voice and intonation

“Is this the place.” “Is this the place ?” “Is this the place !”

BLACK

SOUND FX : A voice with a European accent:

Germany, Year Zero.

LIGHTS

MAN : Ah, sounds like a European art film, lucky I wore my coat of many characters. What better to induce the ambience of world-weary, coffee-stained existentialism ?

Man demonstrates a sense of Fado, leaning forward as if the weight of the world were oppressing him. Suddenly he springs upright and starts to shake pretend hands a la Jacques Tati

ManMr Hulot by Jacques Tati. In addition to the aforementioned Tati, I can also play detectives, gumshoes, pickpockets, secret agents, private I’s, philosophers, misanthropes, gamblers, gun-runners, Bullitts, Samuarais, spies who come in from the cold, hit-men, thin men, conmen, last men, lusty men and bicycle thieves. The director will love it. Speaking of a director … I didn’t get a script. Maybe I should call my …

Man repeats procedure, seeming to loose his confidence as he tries, in vain, for a signal

Man :No reception. Merde. I have no idea what the part is, just says, ‘MAN’ … or who the director is … or where he is. Naturally, we, the actors, represent him, because it’s usually a man, but I don’t want to get into that now, a physical envoy of his thoughts and feelings, the idea made flesh, abstract peregrinations given tangible form. I hope I get a great speech like that…and sound effects, juxtaposed together. It would serve to support my thesis relating to the dichotomy of cinema, at one and the same time being the foremost cultural influence …

SOUND FX : A heavy piano chord

MAN: Charming. Very dramatic. I suppose it serves to highlight the very lack of drama. Is a bare stage the same as a stage that’s bare ? I don’t know. Je ne sais pas. Ich weiss es nicht ! See, I can act in three languages … and brilliant in each one.

SOUND FX : An electronic chicken 

The Windows computer seems to come ‘alive’. Man walks over, excitedly, to the laptop. 

MAN: Hello ? I’m here for the part of ‘MAN’ ? Hello ? Bonjour ? Guten Tag … Ni hao ? That’s it I’m … Oh, wait, Ciao …

Laptop : Enter password

MAN : OK. What is the password ? And why’s it just me here ? Will there be other actors coming ? You can just give me the part now, that will save every…

Laptop : Enter password

MAN: Ohhh ! La-la ! What is the blo … what is the password ?

Laptop : 3 point 1 4

MAN: Oh, easy as pi.

Laptop :15926535 8979323846 2643383279 5028841971 6939937510 5820974944 5923078164 0628620899 8628034825 3421170679

Man tries to enter the numbers but can’t keep up. He gets increasingly agitated and finally shuts the laptop

MAN : Never work with children, animals or computers. Or professionals but that doesn’t seem to be a problem here.

Man opens laptop. The voice has stopped. He tries for a phone signal again; no luck, again

Man : Merde ! Maybe I can email my agent. Hey, wait a moment.

Man walks over to other laptop which is an Apple

Man : The anguished cry of modern man, “What’s the wifi password ?” Hey, Siri, what’s the wifi password ?

SIRI : The password is …

SOUND FX : A loud electronic buzz blocks out the answer

Man : Oh, that’s clever, thanks, Siri. Pretty obvious, really.

Man enters password and the Apple seems to come ‘alive’

Man : Hello ? I’m here for the audition.

SIRI : Name ?

Man : Yes, haha, John, John Green

SIRI : Hello, Yes, haha, John, John Green

Man : Everything screwy is normal in this crummy place.

MAN walks to the centre of the stage and faces the audience, preparing himself before speaking.

MAN : Is this comedy or tragedy ? I don’t know. For the benefit of late-comers, an actor in the time when cinema is dying, is attending an audition for an unknown part in an unknown production with an unknown director. Talk about a script found on a dump. Who wrote th … oh, him ! I know him, well he’s far away in Viet Nam, now, best place for him. Remember the golden age of Hollywood ? Real writers. Now they just pick a hit book and call it a ‘ready-made script’. Siri, please tell my agent he’s fired.

SIRI : I’m sorry, Yes, haha, John, John Green, I can’t do that.

MAN : What ? Then what use is your hard-drive and motherboard and billion bytes of RAM ? You’re just a pocket calculator loaded with conspicuous consumption.

SIRI :Thespian !

MAN :Status symbol

SIRI :Character actor !

MAN :Over-priced piece of crap

SIRI :Walk-on parter !

MAN :Made in China rip-off. I’m going back to Windows

Man closes the Apple and types something into the Windows laptop.

SOUND FX : Sounds of people moving equipment around, background chatter, sounds from a film set.

MAN: Hello I’m … John Green. I’m here for the audition. Is this the right place ?

Windows: Hey, who are you ? What do you want ?

Man: I want a plot ! I’m here for … Excuse me, do you know what time the director’s getting here ? Only I don’t have all day. I want to watch ‘The Swimmer’ on TV with my friend Burt Lancaster ?

Man turns to camera and makes exaggerated smile

SOUND FX : A heavy piano chord, different from before

MAN: Well you’ve changed your tune. I have a question for you … What exactly is cinema ?

Windows: (in a different voice, a working class agitator)

Thank you brother. Cinema: it markets a dream which is unavailable to the target audience who could never participate in an equivalent reality. It propagates the idea that such dreams are possible while, at the same time and working in collusion with multi-national corporations, strives to ensure that such equality can never exist. I will now let my small brother, who represents the developing world, expand, expound and explain.

MAN: It’s full of symbolism, isn’t it? If you don’t like symbolism, if you don’t like metaphor, if you don’t like subtexts … you can get stuffed.

Windows: (in another different voice)

Thank you, brother. Success is only measured in how close we come to emulating the standard product. Such factors as locality, language or legend are labeled ‘colourful’ but viewed with suspicion, and are detrimental to the cause. Overseas sales are increasingly imperative in the battle for survival and as such, the product has to have a universality readily identifiable.

MAN: Now I have a headache. Ok, Let me draw an analogy between Cinema and the hamburger. Audiences will be unquestionably conditioned to accept one, and only one, type of movie. There are fewer and fewer descendants of D.W.Griffith as cinema plays whore to the lure of the dollar. 

Windows: (working class agitator voice )

We will leave you with a thought from the Polish filmmaker Andrej Wajda. Under Communism, any film could be made, it just may not have been shown. In the West, any film gets shown, but may not have been made. Which is the better ? 

Windows appears to shut down.

MAN: Well don’t look at me, I don’t know what’s going on. What should I do now ? 

SOUND FX : A high-pitched, weak bell as in a works canteen

Man: Hello, who’s this ?

Electric voice: Union lunch break. Stop all work. Tea up. First coffee break.

MAN: At last. They must know I’m here, at least. What’s on the menu ?

Electric voice:Fizzy beverage. Pastry.

MAN: I get it, the drink represents USA and the pastry represents Europe, right ?

Slight pause.

Electric voice:Fizzy beverage. Pastry.

MAN: Well, if we’re going to share a stage, you’ll have to do a bit better than that. Do you have any more lines ?

Electric voice:Yes, I have a good one, imminently. 

MAN: Nu ? I’m waiting, boy am I waiting ? How about some acting ?

Electric voice:That’s not my job.

MAN: Oh, come on, it’s easy, you know you want to, don’t want to disappoint the audience, do you ? And don’t say “fizzy beverage” again.

Electric voice: It’s my bona fide line. 

MAN: What if I were to tell you, teach, yes, teach you something. I would then be passing on the training to another union member.

Electric voice: errrrr….

MAN: Bon. Alors, how about if I teach you some reactions ? How about surprise mixed with wonderment ?

Electric voice:Oh, I don’t know anything about …

MAN: La-la, it’s the easiest thing, we learn it on our first morning in acting class. Slowly open your mouth and make your eyes bigger, and wooooowwwwww. Voice high and soft.

Electric voice does perfect reaction

MAN: Wow ! Formidable ! Zwei mal wunderschoen!

Electric voice:Yes, well, I, er … don’t like to, er, blow trumpet, but, er … well … to business. Look under the table

MAN finds a can of Coke, a croissant and a copy of ‘Das Kapital’

Electric voice:For the children of Marx and Coca-cola.

MAN does a Groucho Marx impression

MAN : Last night I shot an industrialist in my pyjamas. He was studying the relations of re-production.

Electric voice:Twenty dollars.

MAN : What ?

Electric voice:Fizzy beverage and pastry. Twenty dollars.

MAN : I hate no-budget projects. OK, I’ll ask you a question, and if the answer is ‘I don’t know’, you owe me twenty dollars. Exactly, what is this play about ?

Electric voice:I don’t know.

MAN : Right, that’s twenty dollars you owe me. Don’t worry about it, use it to cover the cost of the catering.

SOUND FX : a bell as if played back on a broken tape player

MAN: It’s not even a real croissant ! It’s a prop.

MAN starts making little jumps around the stage, ending with a large jump.

MAN: Practicing my jump-cuts, and I do my own stunts. Now, here’s a trick I learnt in montage class.

Lights go out for a short period. When they come back, the MAN is standing on the chair, in a far corner. Light out, back on, MAN is making a sideways running gesture, frozen in mid run. Lights out, back on, MAN is under the chair, crawling out.

MAN: Merde ! This is why actors hate montage; no control over what happens. Hhhmmm, no-budget film, hey, or play, or project, or workshop, or … thing. Probably no effects. I also have that covered. Alors, watch this … I walk across the stage in real-time. Now, backwards … now looped, see the same sequence repeated, repeated … Now, a personal favourite, slow motion. Phew ! A guy can get tired like that. I should take a break ?

Apple laptop seems to come ‘alive’

Siri : From what ?

MAN becomes increasingly dramatic during his speech

MAN: Je ne sais pas … la vie … love, existence. 

All this … being … nothingness … oh, why am I

doomed to play in such insubstantial fare ? Where are

the inspired roles of yesteryear ? Where can I liberate

my oppressed soul in lofty flights of poetry, escape the

drudgery of moribund routine and don wings to ascend to

the Olympian heights of elegance and eloquence ? Oh, what time’s ‘The Swimmer’ on ?

SIRI : 21.30

MAN: You’re speaking to me again. Hey, Siri, why did I get a croissant ? Wouldn’t an English muffin be more appropriate, London and all ?

SIRI : I’m sorry, Yes, haha, John, John Green, I don’t know the answer to that.

MAN : Oh, not that again, just call me ‘Yes’.

SIRI : Yes 

MAN: It probably refers to the middle-classing of Socialism. You won’t find many poor socialists now, they can’t afford it. People have to be capitalists to earn the money to become socialists. To wit, the croissant, symbol of middle-class leisure and ineffectuality. 

SOUND FX: The MGM Leo the Lion roar

MAN: Hey, Siri … is this a play that thinks it’s a film, or a film that thinks it’s a play ?

SIRI : I’m sorry, Yes, haha, John, John Green, I don’t know the answer to that.

MAN : Someone needs an upgrade.

SIRI :Someone needs acting lessons.

MAN : I can unplug you, Missy !

SIRI :You and whose army ? Anyway, I have a lithium polymer battery to provide maximum battery life in a compact space. 

WINDOWS: (WORKER’S VOICE) Thus exploiting the downtrodden people of the Democratic Republic of Congo in cobalt mining.

MAN : The laptops get dialogue ? Hey, Siri … where did you get a script ? Windows … ?

SIRI & Windows together: 

We’re sorry, Yes, haha, John, John Green, we don’t know the answer to that. 

Black

SOUND FX : A voice:

Later, that same day.

LIGHTS

MAN is still walking around trying to get a signal. His coat is off and he is in shirt-sleeves.

MAN: No signal. Merde ! 

MAN continues searching, thinks he has a signal, but no success. Suddenly the Windows laptop appears to come ‘alive’.

Windows: Absurd.

MAN: Great ! Another extra with only one line. Look, I’ve been thinking, if the director’s not going to show up, I may as well leave.

Windows:D’accord. Goodbye.

MAN: You mean he, because it’s probably a man, may arrive ? I think I’ll stick around for a bit. Just a few minutes longer.

Windows:Just a few minutes longer, Just a few minutes longer.

MAN: So he’ll, it’s usually a he, he’ll be here soon ? Oh, I get it. This is the audition. All the while, all these cameras and lights and whatnot, the computers, yes, haha.

SIRI : Yes, haha, John, John Green.

MAN: Shut up, Siri, all the while, I’ve been watched, studied, scrutinised and, still being here, I’m evidently doing a great job. Now to reel them in.

Windows: Hey, who are you ? What do you want ?

MAN : Well, I’m glad you asked. Something engaging, with just the right amount of Brechtian alienation and a bit of Beckett to boot. I can act, magnificently, play guitar, musically, drink, moderately, you’ll never get me on a horse. I play the lead, supremely, react, subtlety, dance, sublimely, for extra money, of course. And, if the script calls for it, and the lady is cute, I mean … you know … artistically cute in a non-judgemental, non-patriarchal, non-Harvey Weinstein, sicko-pervo kinda way … if script calls … I do ‘love scenes’.

Windows: No love scenes. Bad for the Chinese Market. Mustn’t forget the Chinese market.

MAN : The population of China is, Siri, what’s the population of China ?

SIRI : The population of China is 1.42 billion

MAN: Is 1.42 billion, believe me, people in China are having love scenes.

SIRI : Haha. That told him. So what are you doing now ?

MAN: I’m just waiting for the director. .. been waiting since … No script …don’t know what, if any, rôle I’ll have …

Windows: You’ve been waiting for a director who won’t show up, without a script, which hasn’t been written, for a part, which doesn’t exist.

SIRI : Haha. That told him. So what are you doing now ?

MAN: The laptops get a love scene ? Why do I always end up in screwball comedies ? Enough. From my experience of no-budget, low-budget plays, the director ain’t gonna show. And, “It is beyond doubt that all our knowledge begins with experience.” 

Windows: You can’t say that.

MAN: I can’t ? but Kant can. And if Kant can, I can’t see I can’t. Adieu. Fare thee well.

MAN starts to leave, but before he reaches the door

SOUND FX : A fast sports car screeching to a halt

: Some music playing, fading in

: With song still playing, sound of heavy rain on a city street

: Electronic voice: 

The Second Act. Decision of the actor. Resolution

MAN: Lucky I stayed. Now we’re getting somewhere. 

MAN pulls out phone, extends but doesn’t even check if he has a signal.

MAN: No reception. Merde ! I see, Project Phoenix, Project MK Ultra, Russian sleep Deprivation, Big Brother. How will I respond, not to direction, but to no direction, to no director. To nobody. This is ‘opennism’. Allow me to explain. It’s up to the audience to contribute, to read the text and extract from it what they will. The play itself takes on a sort of existential life force, with no preconceived ideas or fixed point of reference. The audience is doomed to make their own interpretation, with no old fashioned abstract morality about what is right or wrong …

The Windows laptop appears to come alive. MAN runs over to it, with a hint of desperation

Windows:John Green.

MAN: Oui, c’est moi

Windows: Theatre – Krapp’s Last Tape, you were Krapp

SIRI: Haha

(Windows adds full list of theatre and acting work)

SIRI: Mr Green, exactly, what is cinema …?

MAN: Enough words, let me show you. Cinema is action, is passion, is dedication, is vision, is love, is life. Cinema is the composition of Ozu, the landscapes of John Ford, the ticking clock of Hitchcock, it is la Dolce Vita and playing chess with Death, Eisenstein steps, Tarantino toes, Bunuel eyes and a Bardot pout. It is the reason I live, and the reason I am here … here, alone, all alone, no one to improv with, no one to bounce ideas … just here, alone, all day, talking to computers. I will tell you about Cinema: Cinema is life and this isn’t living.

SIRI: … in five words or less

MAN: He’s, because it’s usually a he, he’s not here. There’s no one to impress. I need a break. I suggest running away from this play and starting my own. Let me just … search … hhmmm, 

SOUND FX :Sound of a heavy glass door opening. Immediately, new sounds of a busy café/restaurant.

MAN: : Some wonderful music, please.

SOUND FX : French-style accordion music

MAN seems more relaxed, walking around the stage as if it were a chic Parisian cafe, nodding to friends, kissing the hands of ladies. Windows laptop seems to come ‘alive’ as SOUND FX fade.

Windows: Is this modernist or post-modernist ?

MAN: It’s a cafe, look around, use your … imagination. I’ve always wanted to be in a kick-arse movie, directed by a Nicholas Ray. Today, the lead will have to be a hot chi…, I mean a highly-talented female actor. That looks good in leather.

Siri: Is this post-modernist or post-post-modernist ?

MAN: I don’t know what this is. Neither … both. It has the post- modern aspect of requiring a departure from the conventional structure, while being chockablock with pop culture references, though Bergman and Wajda are hardly Lady Gaga and those Kardashian calamities. To both break tradition but still being vaguely recognizable … within boundaries. Then something more, something else, something the audience has to bring, or take from it. As for our director, he’s either, as Camus would predict, having coffee or killing himself … because it’s usually a he. This is absurd.

Windows: Absurd

Siri : Absurd

MAN: Absurd ! Lenin said two things which are of eternal relevance. Firstly, cinema is the most important of the arts. Secondly, and of especial interest to us, ‘What is to be done ?’

Windows:Is it difficult getting an actress to do love scenes 

MAN: Getting an actress to do a nude scene isn’t the problem. Try getting an actress to keep her clothes on. But that’s only in cinema, alas. I’m tired, I can’t go on much longer. I can’t leave, not after waiting so long. I know …

MAN snaps his fingers 

SOUND FX : Sixties guitar-based song.

MAN : Come on, let’s dance.

MAN performs a very impressive dance routine, very ‘Ye-Ye’ and full of twists and shouts

SOUND FX : Record stops immediately as LIGHTS go down.

: An electronic hum/buzzing.

: A car stopping on some gravel. Door opens and shuts. Footsteps on gravel. Doorbell.

: A typewriter. The keys are hit slowly at first, then faster and faster. This turns into machine gun fire.

: A medium paced drum beat, played by a fairly competent amateur.

MAN is sitting in the chair, leaning back against the wall and balancing the chair on its two back legs. 

DRUMMING STOPS

MAN: I’m trying to sit like Henry Fonda in ‘My Darling Clementine’. This is getting us nowhere. Where’s my café gone ?

SOUND FX : The French music resumes, sounding as if it is being played on an old jukebox.

: A small café, quite busy. Coffee machines, glasses knocking against each other, an old cash till.

MAN: Somewhere that serves beer, but I don’t want to have to go through a whole linguistic routine with the barman about ultimate and abstract issues. I just want a beer. And I’d quite like some kind of resolution. I just want to do what actors do best … hang out in bars and tell people how talented we are.

SOUND FX : Sound of beer bottle being opened, then poured

MAN: To have come so far without getting anywhere … at least, nowhere that can be discerned. Does the fact that we can’t measure metaphysical distances make them less or more valid ?

Siri:Definition is a prerequisite and often the most contentious. The truth of a sentence lies in the ability to prove its meaning.

MAN: Then most of my lines have been meaningless.

Windows: Only insofar as they are subjected to the laws of that particular concept. Even when we reduce, we are still left with words such as ‘meaning’ or ‘truth’.

MAN: Truth is, I’m not even sure if this is a part at all.

Siri: That will at least save you from the actor’s revenge; preferring the life of the character to such a degree that they abandon their own self and take on the identity of the rôle. However, maybe a Cartesian approach to your dilemma will prove beneficial.

MAN: The central questions of knowledge and the relationship between mind and body ?

Windows: To counter the doubts about the character: You are acting, are you not ?

MAN: It’s a matter of some debate, but I believe I am.

Siri: Therefore, you have a character. Proceed from there.

MAN: As long as I continue to act, I will have a character. I act, therefore I, the character, am. If I act and I’m conscious of this, it follows that they must be a time when I’m not acting …

Windows: Or else it wouldn’t be acting.

MAN: And the time when I’m not acting is when I’m myself. I stop acting, therefore I am. The actor – character relationship can be seen as an analogy of the mind – body concept. I wonder if Jean Renoir would apply a Cartesian reading to his work ?

Siri: When one has mastered the art of storytelling, why trouble oneself with philosophy ? Appreciation and perpetuation of beauty is gift enough. Besides, one no sooner accepts a view of life, only to see it challenged and dismissed by a Wittgenstein 

MAN: A return to zero.

Lights slowly, slowly start to fade

SOUND FX : The following lines spoken as if at a political rally, with crowd reaction audible in the background, cheering and clapping:

Philosophy is not a body of doctrine but an activity.

It will signify what cannot be said by presenting clearly what can be said.

SOUND FX : A burst of laughter like in an English music hall. This continues during the following,

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.

What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.

SOUND FX : Huge roar of laughter and applause.

LIGHTS return to normal

MAN: Hey, Siri, ca va ?

Siri: Oui, ca va.

MAN: Well, how do we end this ? We could have a classic Hollywood ending, fall in love and get married. Or fall in love, anyway … there ain’t nobody with whom to fall in love … or marry. Siri …

Siri No, that’s silly.

MAN : I quite like this … sitting around in coffee bars and talking. I wish I could get a job doing it, as my career as an actor is on the rubbish dump. 

Windows: Don’t you have anything else lined up ?

MAN : Maybe some adverts, but screw that. Oh, merde ! So it’s come to this ? I’m going to end it the way I want to. Nothing to lose, now. Doesn’t look like he’s coming. Maybe he never intended to. Because it’s usually a … Hey, I’ve an idea …

SOUND FX : An authoritarian voice reads the following:

The MAN pondered a neat, conclusive ending such as is found in the films of Howard Hawks. The Man also pondered something more dramatic, along the lines of Orson Welles. Then the MAN pondered a fixed camera fade on him, in the style of De Sica. Then he pondered … and he pondered

MAN: I don’t know.

SOUND FX: The opening movement of Mozart’s Requiem

MAN walks around, and finds a book he hadn’t seen, under the other table. He flicks through it, then finds a paragraph to read

MAN: Baudelaire, writing about Goya, the Spanish artist. He writes, “Goya often plunges into savagery or soars into comic brilliance. He is at all times a great artist and often a terrifying one … No-one has ventured further into the realms of the absurd than he has.”

BLACK

Windows : Cruelty, oppression, absurd

: Music stops

Siri : Absurd

MAN: Absurd

LIGHTS

There is to be no curtain call

There are to be no encores

Seahorse Productions: ‘Shadow Sonata’ 2014

8th June 2020

‘Shadow Sonata’ was my first film shot in London since the early 1990s, and how things have changed. I started with a Bell & Howell 8mm cine camera, splicing film by hand and playing back on a projector; now I was working on a pocket digital camera and cutting on computer.

The title is a reference to the short story collection ‘Shadows of a Sound’ by the Korean writer Hwang Sun-woo, an author mentioned in the Korean film ‘My Sassy Girl,’ and the book plays a key part in the film. The influence of Asia and Asian culture should be discernible throughout.

Hwang Sun-won Whois
Hwang Sun-woo
Shadows of a Sound by Hwang Sun-won (1990, Hardcover) for sale ...
The short story collection

‘Shadow Sonata’ is a non-linear story of a man living in London, obsessed by an old love affair, while dreaming his way out of his depression. The topography of London helps the viewer place the action in the past, the present, and what could be the future, or pure imagination.

The Man starts by meeting his blonde girlfriend by an old museum in Walthamstow, north-east London. From the sunny exterior we move to the inside of his small London bedsit, decorated with Asian posters, and full of books by Asian writers.

Walthamstow Village - Wikipedia
Old Walthamstow

He walks around London, alone, the city appearing grey, cold, emotionless. He keeps seeing a beautiful Asian lady and feels very attracted to her … if only he could meet her.

I shot this film over two days on my Samsung W200, a camera that cost me around 80 UKP. It lasted until 2017 when it just died on me but anyway, mobile phones now have better cameras (I currently use an iPhone 6s).

Samsung W200 Full HD Waterproof Pocket Camcorder: Amazon.co.uk ...

Furthermore, I was very lucky with the weather; I had bright sun for the flashback sequence and dull wet grey rain for the present.

The was for the old love affair was played on an instrument I encountered in Sweden, a nyckleharpa:

Nyckelangelo

The dream or future sequence uses ‘Oriental’ from Granados’ ‘Spanish Dances’, while the melancholic ending is a late String Quartet by Beethoven. These small scale pieces fascinate me, especially considering they followed the epic 9th Symphony … but that is possibly a theme for another blog or film.

As always, thanks so much to the actors who gave their time for free:

Mr Martin O’Shea, Ms Michelene P. Heine, Mr Stephen Grey, Mr Alex Loveridge, Ms Angie and introducing Ms Emily Yue.

And now

LIGHTS

CAMERAS

ACTION !

The link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_e3DOCT36o

Seahorse Productions: ‘Inferno’ 2007

25th May 2020

From medieval Florence to modern-day Berlin, a film shot on both Super 8 and digital video, with a professional actor and professional sound engineer / cameraman. And all on no budget, as usual.

This is a retelling of ‘Inferno’ or Hell, an epic poem by Dante.

Dante Alighieri – Wikipedia tiếng Việt

Dante Alighieri born around 1265 in Florence during a turbulent time of political infighting. He studied to be a pharmacist, and books actually were sold in pharmacies at this time.

Florence Walking Tours: Half Day Tour Florence
Modern – day Florence with the incredible architecture

Dante is most famous for his Divine Comedy, a three-part poem, starting in Hell, Part 2 in Purgatory and finally Part 3 in Paradise. Of these, ‘Inferno’ is by far the most widely-read.

The Divine Comedy: Volume 1: Inferno (Pt. 1) (English and Italian ...
A recent edition of ‘Inferno’.

The poem starts with Dante in a dark wood, having ‘lost his way’. The poem is full of allegory and symbolism, the dark wood representing uncertainty and danger, as he has stepped off the path to God and salvation. He meets the Roman poet, Virgil (70 BC – 19 BC), who acts as a guide. Virgil will help to get Dante back ‘on the right path’ but this will mean going through the Inferno.

What follows is a journey where Dante sees the souls or ‘shades’ of the dead who are being eternally punished, in appropriate ways, for their sins on Earth. The Inferno is arranged in nine circles, the ninth being reserved for Lucifer.

Dante's Inferno - Live Score by Maurizio Guarini (GOBLIN ...
Virgil guides Dante through the Inferno

As the two poets descend, the crimes, and the punishments get worse, until, finally, in the lowest circle, Dante sees the Devil.

This poem is a major work of European and World art, inspiring countless artists, including the German Gustav Dore, who etched these pictures.

Dante's Satan - Wikipedia
The Devil in Inferno, by Gustav Dore

Dante had an idealised love, a young lady called Beatrice, and her purity gives Dante the courage to continue his horrific quest.

In the film, I have a young lady (Katerina) who reads by a small river holding a lily (the symbol of Florence). A man sees her and goes to speak to her, but she goes, leaving a book behind – the book is the Aenid by Virgil.

The Man then walks through modern day Berlin, to reach his salvation.

I used the new dome of the German Parliament building, the Reichstag, to represent the circular arrangement of Dante’s Inferno, and the Man walks over, or by, several rivers, symbolising the rivers of Hell.

Visiting the Reichstag Dome – Amazing Berlin views and history
The Reichstag dome

For the crimes against nature, I updated the book to mean environmental issues; the Man walks against a skyline criss-crossed with electric wires and factory smokestacks, like Blake’s ‘dark Satanic mills’.

We also filmed at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, which is in north Berlin, to represent the unspeakable horrors of genocide, all genocide perpetrated by any nation against any person due to race, religion, sexuality or politics.

Sachsenhausen | The Holocaust Encyclopedia
Sachsenhausen Memorial (ex concentration camp) Free Tour - Berlin ...

Many thanks to my team who all worked and contributed their time and talents for free:

Mr Martin O’Shea, Mr Philipp Pressmann, Ms Manuela Fresard & Ms Katarina Worner.

All the technical, digital camera-work and editing was done by Herr F.T. Pen, and the incredible foley artist Herr Max Bauer.

LIGHTS

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The link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ari5zGIpwA

Seahorse Productions: Steppenwolf, Berlin 2014

15th May 2020

Historic photos of City Life of Berlin during the interwar period ...

This film, finished in 2014, was shot in 2008 while I was living in Berlin and I attempted to give it a 1920s feel. It’s based on the famous novel by Hermann Hesse:

Quote HERMANN HESSE – MAGGIE EXPLAINS THE WORLD

The novel, which was published in 1927, is a book within a book … a young man finds a diary written by an older man and it is this diary which forms the bulk of the story. As readers, we are free to choose how much to believe of the ‘diary’; is it all true, all fiction, a combination of truth, half-truths and wishes ?

The book certainly has a surreal quality to it, moving from realistic descriptions to a final sequence which seems to resemble a dream or fantasy.

The main character, Harry Haller, refers to himself as a steppenwolf, that is someone who craves human companionship yet is painfully introverted and uncomfortable around people. This dichotomy is central to the book.

Steppenwolf' Hermann Hesse | Cover: Detail of a painting by… | Flickr
A paperback edition of the novel

For the film, I choose areas of Berlin that were more historic and evocative of the 1920s, as well as selecting some ‘modern’ classical composers who were contemporaneous (Martinu from Czech Republic, Hindemith from Germany), along with W.F. Bach (who is mentioned in the book). The film plays out with a melancholy solo guitar piece by the incredible gypsy-guitarist Django Rheinhardt.

I also used colour filters towards the end of the film, as in some silent classics, indicating that the sequences may or may not be ‘real’ … it is up to the viewer to decide.

The film style was heavily influenced by German expressionist cinema of the inter-war years, directors such as Fritz Lang, G.W. Pabst and mostly F.W. Murnau.

Mr Molnar Levente, a Hungarian actor, was in the highly successful ‘Son of Saul’ film, while Mr Martin O’Shea has appeared with Kenneth Branagh and Bill Nighy in the Tom Cruise film ‘Valkarie’.

Ms Willow de la Roche gave, I feel, an amazing performance. I’m so sorry it took so long for the film to finally be cut.

Technical details: I shot the film entirely on Super 8, then had to transfer onto a compatible disk for cutting on a Windows-based laptop. At the time I was moving between Berlin, London and Sweden and furthermore, I had to learn computer editing from scratch.

And now:

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The link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaPT0X-J2EY

Seahorse Productions: ‘Bad Faith’, Berlin, GERMANY 2005

6th May 2020

Filmed in Berlin, yet our story starts in Paris …

Existentialism, rebirth, personas and inner truth

Magda Champs Elysées *** - The Paris bouquinistes: discover the ...

Walking along the iconic bookstalls of Paris, by the historic Seine, I found a copy of this book:

Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology ...

The philosophy by Jean-Paul Sartre was the inspiration behind my 2005 film, ‘Bad Faith’.

Jean-Paul Sartre (Author of Nausea)

To encapsulate a weighty, heavy-going and often impenetrable book (at least to me) in a succinct sentence or two, Sartre discusses the concept of bad faith (mauvaise foi) whereby people adopt a false persona or identity, become affected, fake, inauthentic and, as a consequence, loose their freedom.

Freedom was a major issue in the writings of Sartre, so please use the internet to discover more if this interests you.

The story of ‘Bad Faith’ takes place over one single day, in Berlin. An English man, Alan Francis (Russell Shaw) has arrived early in the morning, planning to pay a surprise visit to an old friend, an actress named Julie Retore (Natasha Kepsi). They haven’t met for a long time, but Alan has an offer for her … he is about to make a film and wants Julie to play the female lead.

They meet and discuss old times, and how their lives have changed. However, when Alan offers her the film, Natasha senses their may be more to his offer than would appear on the surface.

The film can be viewed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4ogP5mfuUw

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The film contains a number of French references, the work of author Marcel Proust, the films of Jean-Luc Godard and the soundtrack features Francis Poulenc. Julie is seen drinking in a French-style cafe, while we hear actress Julie Delpy singing (in French) in the background. Julie also speaks a few words of French to a young student who has forgotten his book (the French poet Rimbaud). The area where the two protagonists meets features a large French church, and Julie’s surname comes from a character in the French-language film ‘Messidor’ (1979).

The issue of Bad Faith is exemplified by the contradictory characters. Alan appears confident, indeed, over-confident, optimist, yet admits to being terrified (in a moment of relatable honesty). Julie, by contrast, appears natural and content as she deals with the minor annoyances of her daily life. Her modest demeanor serves to highlight the affected manner of Alan’s ‘performance’. As Julie points out, it’s “Not enough for you to be a director, you have to look like one, too,” to which Alan admits is “Just an image.” We, like Julie, question this … is it a just image ?

What is apparent is that Alan and Julie had some kind of relationship in the past, when they worked together in tiny theatres, performing for tiny audiences. I deliberately left the extent of the relationship open … I want the audience to decide (just friends, boyfriend & girlfriend, one-night stand, one in love, the other wanting a platonic relationship, etc).

During the script readings, I allowed the actors to invent their own back story and NOT to tell me … so even I don’t know their history.

As the day comes to an end, Alan has to be honest about what he wants, and the scene becomes somewhat embarrassing to watch. We see that Julie is open and honest, she doesn’t want to pretend or hide behind personas anymore. Tellingly, Alan doesn’t seem to understand … or want to understand.

A final ‘clue’ is when Julie returns to her work (and eagle-eyes viewers may spot a tiny photo of Julie Delpy at the front of the desk). We see a copy of Alan’s script upon which Julie places a copy of Proust, a book whose title has been approximately translated as ‘Remembrance of Things Past’.

So which one is really free ? We hear that Alan has to work under producers and acquiesce to their decisions. Julie is alone, but she seems to have choice over what work she does or doesn’t do. Is she happy ? Does she regret her choice ? Will Alan’s film be a success ? All of these are left unanswered. The crux of the film is the interaction of the two leads. If Alan had been less over-bearing and demonstrated humility, would the outcome have been different ? I will let you decide.

CREDITS

Natascha Kepsi

Russell Shaw

David Graber

Steffi Muller

Bjorn Langhans // Christine Muller and Philipp Pressmann

Harri Ansorge, Russell Shaw & Paul Pacifico

Cameras and Edit: Harri Ansorge

Foley Artist: Max Bauer

A film by Paul Pacifico

Seahorse Productions & IRRAH

BERLIN 2005

Buying lunch at a Kina Imbiss (small Chinese restaurant) Alexamderplatz Station, Berlin.
Photo by Russell Shaw

Seahorse Productions: ảo tưởng (Dreams) 2020

30th April 2020

This is my most recent film, ảo tưởng, which translates as ‘dreams’ but with a sense of disillusion.

Filming took a number of years, as I had to juggle the availability of my lead actress, not to mention trying to find the time and energy myself after working full-time at various schools and language centres.

Another big challenge was getting around; I don’t have a motorbike and Sai Gon has no subway system. I’ve not even mentioned the heat; I’m used to filming in north Europe, not the tropics.

Additionally, I had a series of camera problems. I intended to use my pocket Samsung camera W200. The first shots were ‘in the can’ ( the university scene) only for me to accidentally delete them. Soon after the camera, which had filmed in London and came with me to Thailand, Cambodia & Viet Nam, died.

Next I borrowed a Samsung Galaxy 5 phone, only to discover it has no ‘steadycam’, so when I played the recordings back, I was shocked at how shaky there were.

After that, I had a great LG phone, with manual options for focus, light, filters etc … but that phone also died. I next used my iPhone 5 but, as related in an earlier blog, that was caught in the monsoon of Sai Gon’s rainy season. I got the dreaded red screen, and that phone died.

Finally, I was able to finish the film on my new iPhone 6S.

I could have shot some more cutaway shots (scenes of the city, without any of the actors) but i thought it was time to finish the film.

In Vietnam, where I’m currently based, I have an Apple Mac Book (though it’s approaching the end of days, I fear), but in London I have a Samsung laptop using Windows, and has Movie Maker. During a recent trip, I cut the film in two days (with a lot of very un-British shouting cursing and cussing; I have NO computer skills or patience to deal with the fact that I have no computer skills).

Finally, I posted it to YouTube … and now it is available for everyone.

I’m not going to explain the film here, I’d much prefer viewer to watch it and make their own decisions or explanations, although I’d be happy to discuss any points people may wish to raise.

Heartfelt thanks to: Ms Quynh, Ms Mi, Ms Hoang, Ms Phuong & Ms Hang and the wonderful music of Mr Richard Lewis and the experimental aural soundscape of Herr Harald Ansorge and the encouragement of Ms Lorna ‘Ace’ Le Bredonchel & Mr Martin O’Shea

Lights

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZQvWlknJpc