Sunday, August 17, 2014

Berowne's 233

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "F" is for France)

Here’s another in the series titled “Berowne’s Mediocre Adventures.”


A few decades ago I was working as a film-maker and I received a wonderful assignment: to make a brief movie on Paris.

 
One item I certainly wanted in the film was some special footage of the famous Place de la Concorde, known, surely, to every tourist.


This place is possibly the most beautiful public square in what generations have claimed is the most beautiful city in the world.
 

It wasn’t always beautiful.  A few centuries ago it was called the Place de la Revolution.  The unfortunate French king had to mount the stairs to keep his appointment with Mme la Guillotine...

And the executioner impulsively showed the result of his work to the cheering crowd.  The equally unfortunate Marie Antoinette had to make the same trip.


But “concorde” suggests reconciliation, so no one gets beheaded there these days. 
 

At one end of the famous public square was a building I found fascinating.  It was the National Assembly, home of the French Parliament, and if I could get up there on top of it I would be able to get sensational footage of the entire Place de la Concorde.

However, I was told that no commercial photographer or cameraman had ever been given that permission.  They told me in the French version of our phrase, “Fuggedaboutit.”

But I persisted.  I emphasized that I was no commercial photog or paparazzo; I was working for the French Government Tourist Office.

Ergo, or ipso facto, or whatever, I was one of them; we were all working for the same boss, the gouvernement of France.

But there seemed to be some morose person in that building who was sure, once I got up on top, I’d whip out a home-made bomb and blow the whole place to the French equivalent of smithereens.

It took quite a while, but finally the word came through that, okay, even though they didn’t think it was a great idea, they’d give me the permission.

 
They assigned me two gendarmes, a sparse quasi-military unit that was to make sure I wouldn’t pull any funny stuff. 

The two cops were prepared for this assignment as though it was a platoon of Wehrmacht troops they were supposed to watch over.  They each had a mitrailleuse – machine gun – hung from a sling over the shoulder. You have not experienced the thrill of movie-making until you try to shoot a film with two machine guns pointed at you.



Anyway, I set up my tripod and camera and went to work.  Looking through the viewfinder I saw a beautiful sunlit view of the entire Place de la Concorde.  I got medium shots, wide angles, closeups, the works.

When I notified my two chaperons I was finished, I thought they seemed a bit disappointed that I hadn’t done anything unacceptable that would have allowed them to use their popguns.

The sequence later proved an important part of the finished film, a featurette titled “One Man’s Paris.”  The movie was distributed by Universal-International and I was proud to invite the entire staff of the French Gov’t Tourist Office in New York to see it playing at the Palace Theater on Broadway. 

34 comments:

naturgesetz said...

Definitely a story worth telling and worth hearing (or reading).

Karen S. said...

Oh my goodness, this is really quite an interesting story from your history of films, writing and etc. A real behind the scenes story of your Paris story in the making.

Roger Owen Green said...

Great tale. E is for EXCELLENT, F is for FRANCE!

Kutamun said...

A birds eye view , eh , Saint - Exupery ??

Berowne said...

Thank you, Petit Prince...

senderupwords said...

A is for apt! Love and Light, S

Other Mary said...

What a very interesting life you have.... and, just fyi, I believe the French equivalent of smithereens is Napolean Blownapart. Sorry, I couldn't resist. ;-)

Berowne said...

Terrific, l'Autre Marie. You get first prize from the Pun of the Month Club.

Anita said...

Thanks for sharing, Berowne.
Lovely to learn that you have worked as a film-maker. Can take tips from you :)

Haven't visited Paris. But, the monument looks pretty similar to Washington Monument in Washington DC (have visited it).

Hildred said...

Great story - such an interesting life you have led!!!

Theresa Milstein said...

Wow, what an experience you had! To take pictures while being watched by people with weapons. Thanks for sharing the photos. Makes we want to see Paris again.

Berowne said...

Hopefully without machine guns.:-)

Kathe W. said...

oh my quelle honour! Could not happen to a nicer person!

Sheilagh Lee said...

wow amazing your tales are so fascinating what a history you've had

Leslie: said...

Formidable!

Leslie
abcw team

Amrit Sinha said...

Experiences surely enrich us ... loved the narrative.

Reader Wil said...

Beautiful! But where is your view of the entire Place de la Concorde?
I should like to see a bird's-eye view of the Place de la Concorde.
I like your story!
Wil, ABCW Team

K V V S MURTHY said...

Transformation ..that's inevitable in the human history..!

Stacy Lynn Mar said...

your stories are always so interesting. love your insight and your little life lessons!

stacy lynn mar
http://warningthestars.blogspot.com/

Berowne said...

And I love your little comments; thanks.

Jae Rose said...

Generally speaking messing with a French policeman is a bad idea...or even a French man ;)

Berowne said...

Some day you must tell us about your experiences on that topic.:-)

Ni de Aqui, Ni de Alla said...

Fascinating story!

Black Jack's Carol said...

I enjoyed this story. The two machine guns added a fantastical element that I feel sure will stay in my mind, should I ever be fortunate enough to see Place de la Concorde.

rudraprayaga said...

Really enchanting.Enjoyed reading and views.

Enigma said...

It's been one of my more enduring dreams to visit France someday and click away some beautiful photographs and just stroll around gazing at all the beautiful artwork. I agree, the only thing(s) that I know about Paris have come through movies (my favourite one being Amelie) and a couple of school history textbooks. But nonetheless, the place continues to have this allure for me that doesn't wane.

I'll try to have all that without the twin machine guns pointed at me, hahaha. :)

oldegg said...

What a delight to read this piece. I am sure anyone who has been to Paris will have a story or two to tell of the city, the Parisians, and the adventures they have had. A truly unforgettable place.

Cristina Pop said...

Such an interesting story! Love it!

Berowne said...

My thanks to all for the much-appreciated comments.

Sharp Little Pencil said...

Another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity captured by our intrepid storyteller! I enjoy the behind-the-scenes stories of how you accomplished these feats.

Berowne, you are a treasure. Hope F was NOT for pate foie gras, a depressing little dish if ever a goose was forcefed... Peace, Amy

cifar shayar said...

knowledgeable writing, thanks for sharing

Wait Over

Tess Kincaid said...

Always a pleasure Mr. B...

Berowne said...

Always a pleasure, Ms K.

Eddie Bluelights said...

Meant to comment earlier when I read it on ABC Wednesday.

So pleased you managed to film after persuading the authorities.

So interesting that your film appeared within "One Man In Paris".

What an interesting life you have/are having ~ Eddie

 
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