Saturday, September 17
The sun is shining but it’s cold, so different to the sticky and hot morning of a week ago. The taxi ride to Gare de l’Est is slow due to the road works. Finished fixing Jacqueline’s rail ticket we catch the Metro to Montparnasse to visit the Musee Bourdelle. Looking in the windows of parked cars, military personnel with machine guns patrol the streets of Main Montparnasse. Old Montparnasse was named after the sacred mountain where Apollo entertained his muses. On boulevard Montparnasse, Andre Kertesz sat at a table at the Café du Dome and brokered editorial photographic work for magazines like Detective. To illustrate Detective, Kertesz, Brassai and Bill Brandt re-staged crime scenes.
Boudelle was a student of Rodin yet his work is cold and bears the gestures of automats. While I don’t see love in Rodin’s work there is passion. Bourdelle’s work has the look that became the template for war memorials and Stalin’s monuments.
Along boulevard Edgar Quinet, in through the main gate of Cimetiere du Montparnasse. Turn right into the first division and avenue du Boulevart and Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir’s shared grave is on the right. I wait as two young women make their photos of each other. They ask me to photograph them together. A lone woman arrives and places a single long stemmed rose on the grave. Arriving at Metro Raspail, walking down the stairs where Lee Miller met Man Ray we take the Metro to the 3rd arrondisement to see Bill Brandt. Bill Brandt Photographies is at Galerie Karsten Greve, 5 rue Debellyme. Robert Frank had seen Brandt’s pictures in 1969 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Frank wrote, I heard a sound, and a feeling inside me woke up. Reality became mystery. To see these nudes is wonderful . . . . I’ve felt the whiteness of the skin before, I’ve looked at a woman’s body with desire and it became love making and later habit. Here in that cold museum the same familiar feelings return.
Brandt’s nudes are cold. The Policeman’s Daughter’s nakedness is something to bear. I’m taken back to scenes from a movie I saw 40 years before. Sidney Lumet’s The Pawnbroker (1965) and Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965) were a double feature at a suburban drive-in. I would have been sixteen. Repulsion and The Pawnbroker were both black and white movies. Repulsion was not what I expected. It was a paranoia horror movie, a genre I wasn’t familiar with starring French actress, Catherine Deneuve. If I had seen the movie poster I would have read, The nightmare world of a Virgin’s dreams becomes the screen’s shocking reality. The Pawn Broker was a holocaust survivor movie and starred Rod Steiger playing the role of New York, pawn broker Sol Nazerman. In flash back, the pawnbroker’s beautiful wife was assigned to a brothel in a Nazi death camp. I remember scenes of routine dread reminiscent of the air of Brandt’s The Policeman’s Daughter.
Brandt was a fan of the cinema of German Expressionism I read in Telerama Bill Brandt was also an Orson Welles fan. Luc Desbenoit (2005) writes that Brandt believed he understood Welles’ aphoristic, The camera is much more than a recording machine. It is a medium through which messages from other worlds travel. And Desbenoit asks; Ne dit-il pas qu’il “photographie des souvenirs”, pas ce qu’ il voir? Doesn’t he say he photographs memories not what he sees?
Wandering through the 3rd arrondisement towards Musee Picasso, I recall how Repulsion and The Pawn Broker had been an impressive double and how Catherine Deneuve was so Paris. The Picasso Museum is closed, something about security. We set off for the café lined, grassed square of Place Des Vosges and Café Hugo to over hear young women speak of their love affairs.
Sunday, September 18
Sunday morning with no patisseries open at Place Blanche, so across the bridge to the leafy part of rue Callaincourt where the shopkeepers aren’t as friendly as those at Place Blanche. With our bread I return for breakfast with Nat King Cole and Sweet Lorraine.
Sunday afternoon we cross the Seine on Alexandre III on our way to the Left Bank. On picturesque Alexandre III, wedding photographers ply their trade. On boulevard St Germain we pass Sartre’s haunts the Café des Deux Margots and Café de Flore. The cafes are packed and people pose to be photographed out front. On boulevard Raspail, a red dress on a headless mannequin makes me reach for the Diana. We spend the evening at A la Petite Chaise, the oldest restaurant in Paris and ignore Colette’s advice about not eating in Parisian restaurants on Sundays. The onion soup is delicious.
Monday, September 19
The busker violinist at Place Pigalle Metro plays Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose. Exiting Maubert Mutualite then the Pantheon, another beautiful, Greek temple.. Then to Jardin du Luxembourg to find The Statue of Liberty. There are at least two in Paris. It was in Jardin du Luxembourg where I first saw Rodin’s, Eve. Adam was nearby. Eve was walking away from something terrible. I made pictures with my twin lens Rollieflex and when I developed the film the skies were blemished, damaged. Must have been something in the bathroom water that I used to process the film. I don’t care for Rodin’s chiselled and smoothed marble sculptures but I do care for his bronzes, especially Eve; vulnerability fashioned in clay then cast in enduring bronze.
We lunch at a café amongst the trees and wander through the gardens. The Statue of Liberty receives the Diana treatment. We stroll along boulevard St Michel, take the Metro to Chateau Rouge, climb up to Sacre-Coeur, down rue du Calvaire and down to La Villa des Abbesses. 4.00 euros buys 25 cl of Heineken. A man dressed in fox hunting garb, stops, picks up a cigarette butt, lights up and continues down rue des Abbesses.