By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
I find a couple of books in English: Rimbaud: Complete. A keeper. A proud member of the literary Decadent movement, Rimbaud might have found the next two books of interest or possibly of assistance: Just for Today: Daily Meditationfor Recovering Addicts, and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions by Alcoholics Anonymous, in which there is a handwritten inscription.
And there are the DVDs. No Jagged Edge here. Le Gendarme en balade(The Gendarme Retires), which stars Louis de Funès in this popular French comedy series from the early ’70s. There are four other DVDs, which look homemade. One has a cover featuring cartoon figures, with dates printed from the 1970s and ’80s next to names of vacation spots around France.
I shove these deep into my bags as well — who knows what this is? — and trudge up the hill toward my home base.
Once inside, I spread my urban treasure out on the kitchen table. Nice haul. Clock. Frame. Comic books. It’s all good. I kick back to cool off and watch some Saturday-afternoon basic cable. My choices are thin. Mostly shows called Paid Programming. Instead, I pick up one of the retrieved DVDs. It’s the one with French towns and dates on it. I insert the disc and push “play.” These are clearly someone’s home movies, shot on Super-8 with mushy Muzak-like soundtrack added later. It’s Christmas dinner in a Parisian apartment, circa 1973. We first see a group of adults sitting around a table — smoking, drinking, laughing — then a group of children. The camera finds an adorable toddler with huge brown eyes and long Galahad locks. A 7- or 8-year-old boy I take to be his brother (they are both dressed in the same bright-red one-piece feety pajamas) lovingly helps him eat.
These could be my own family movies. Indeed, I had just uncovered my parents’ home movies and had them transferred to DVD, with a similarly cheesy soundtrack. In this French version, the children rush to open their presents. To the disturbing sounds of a Muzak-ed “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” — a big hit for Nina Simone in 1964 and, later, an even bigger hit for the Animals — the übercute youngest boy plays with a colored ring-stacking toy while his brother uncorks a popgun rifle and takes aim at the camera. Then we see the young one being placed inside a shiny yellow racecar. The 7-year-old receives a pedal-powered tricycle. Suddenly, we cut to:
EXT. FRENCH VILLAGE — SUMMER 1976
Fermaincourt, a small village about 50 miles southwest of Paris. A now-4-year-old boy in a red-striped sailor shirt and beret rides his bike inside a courtyard. Later, his toy rifle–toting mother chases the boy, now wearing an Indian headdress, around a teepee. All this unfolds to the watered-down tunes of Star Wars. At the end, we see a quick shot of another, older woman doting on the boy like a grandmother.
EXT. FRENCH CAMPSITE — FALL 1976
Cabourg. The Normandy region of France. A sweatered middle-aged father tosses a soccer ball to his husky 10-year-old son. In the background, we see an 18-foot travel trailer with a walk-in-tent attachment. Two elderly women fawn over the younger brother. This all plays out to a sickly trumpeted version of “Devil in Disguise.” The DVD box says: “Cabourg with Grandma Jeannett and Grandpa Fernand.”Some names to put with these faces.
EXT. FRENCH BEACH — SUMMER 1977
Le Lavandou, a seaside resort around the horn from Saint-Tropez. In the azure waters, the two brothers, now about 5 and 11 years old, play-fight in a very loving manner. The soundtrack is a trumpety “Love Me Tender,” then switches to an all-gal vocal version of “Tutti Frutti.”
EXT. SPANISH BEACH — SUMMER 1978
Alicante, Spain. On the white beach, we see a slimmed-down, more confident older brother, 12, and his younger sibling, frolicking in the sea. On the shore, the camera captures Grandma Jeannett in a purple-print summer dress, strolling while lost in thought. Meanwhile, as Mom knits in a beach chair, Dad enters the frame. He is 40-ish and rotund, and a comb-over hides a bald patch.
EXT. FRENCH VILLAGE — SUMMER 1980
The Haute-Savoie region in the French Alps. We see mountains, Swiss-style chalets and Alpine goats, lots of goats. The youngest boy is now 8 and growing straight up like a sprout. With his mother and grandmother, he walks along a country road, shirtless and flexing his newfound muscles and faux freedom. Where is his older brother? Fourteen years old? Probably back in Paris, chasing girls. The camera finds amazing waterfalls, snow-covered peaks and — did I mention? — goats. Dozens of them, roaming freely through the town center. Mom, in her summer dress and low heels, hikes up into a patch of snow with her son. Playfully, they throw snowballs at Dad, who is filming from below. The vacation ends with a close-up of the spunky 8-year-old with a sprig of straw in his mouth. He gives a thumbs-up to the camera.
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