domingo, 13 de maio de 2012

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Little Pea disse...

bruno andrade disse...

bruno andrade disse...

8 March

For a few days now, I've come back from SIS, to find a number of messages from Simon Mizrahi, as well as from his mother and sister. He's just gone into hospital again and is begging me to come and see him. Simon was press attaché on Coup de torchon, 'Round Midnight, La Passion Béatrice, and Daddy Nostalgic. Much more than that, I knew him as a passionate film-buff, who made you share not only his enthusiasms - for Moonfleet, or Party Girl - but his dislikes as well. He had come back from Spain at the beginning of the sixties, illuminated by his experience of being an actor and an assistant to his idol, Nicholas Ray. On King of Kings he belonged to a group of film-buffs we called the ‘neo-Macmahonians’, and made me share in his battles to rehabilitate or discover unknown or misunderstood directors: Riccardo Freda, Dino Risi, Comencini, Monicelli, the Festa Campanile of Voci bianche and Une Vergine per il principe, Scola. He managed to bring out many masterpieces, finding distributors and cinemas and subtitling the films himself. Among the American directors he championed were Dwan, Ray, Walsh, Tourneur, Stuart Heisler (I think he even interviewed this talented and mysterious director).

I'd suspected the worst for a year and a half - AIDS. But every time I spoke to him he dodged the question, assuring me that everything was fine. Just like the producer of Daddy Nostalgic, Adolphe Viezzi who, almost to the last moment, talked about lung infections, before dying with extraordinary class and courage.

It was during the 1991 Venice Festival that I started to get really worried; he started leaving me wild and incoherent messages. It was worse at the European Festival of La Baule. To keep himself going, he would take stimulants which, added to the medication he was taking, sent him soaring.

On Sunday afternoon I go to the Bichat Hospital with Riccardo Freda - Simon published his first interview with him in Présence du cinema. When we arrive in his room we find him surrounded by his mother, his brother and his sister. A terrible shock. His body is emaciated, his cheeks are hollow, his teeth are virtually falling out of his mouth. Tubes are fixed to his arms. Transfusion and perfusion. I have trouble replying to his 'Hello, baby!', and am ashamed by my half-silence. Riccardo, who's also overwhelmed, is more talkative. A smell of death, diarrhoea, eau de cologne. I've brought him some books, fruit juices, newspapers. Le Canard enchaîné makes him laugh, but he's cross about the negative review of the last Comencini, which he thought was magnificent. He has lost none of his passion. Moving his arm he dislodges his drip. The nurse makes us go into the corridor so she can put it back in. Screams.

bruno andrade disse...

15 March

Whenever I have a moment I go and see Simon at the hospital, either alone or with Riccardo Freda. He's even more striking now. His skin has turned entirely black. I bring him the proofs of Projections I. He seems to like this. And yet I can't tell whether he has the strength to read. In a broken voice he talks passionately about John Boorman's I Dreamt I Woke Up, which he saw at Venice and thought was 'brilliant'. He makes a point of asking me to go and see it. It's his latest discovery, along with the telefilm directed by Jerry Lewis. I tell him of my enthusiasm for the Cukor biography by Patrick McGilligan, which he asks to see immediately. Clearly, he tires more quickly, and has greater difficulty concentrating. But you can sense that he wants to talk cinema. His eyes light up when I tell him I've just seen by Mitchell Leisen's Frenchman's Creek, an extremely original pirate film - dark, meditative, visually sumptuous, closer to Minnelli than to Curtiz or Walsh. 'It's admirable,' he manages to articulate. Then he asks me when he'll be able to see La Guerre sans nom so he can work on it. Overwhelmed, I haven't the strength to tell him the film's already been released.

3 April

Simon Mizrahi has asked me to bring him some Chinese food. In addition I buy some flans and cremes brulees from Fauchon. While it's very hard for him to eat (on the previous day I had to insist before he would swallow some vegetables or pieces of meat), he pounces on a pot of cremes brulde and swallows it extraordinarily quickly. He's still a greedy chap. Today his skin has almost returned to its normal colour. But I still have to struggle with myself to take his hand or wipe his face. Illness and death chill my blood. But I get over it. Sometimes.

Fortunately he's getting a lot of visitors. Marie-Noelle Tranchant from Figaro came to read him some psalms. Danielle Heyrnann, the editor of the arts and leisure section of Le Monde, is very tender and compassionate. Scola and Comencini are constantly phoning his mother, who is with him today. She doesn't really seem aware of the seriousness of her son's illness. Or else she's refusing to admit the truth - to keep her spirits up and help her son do the same.

bruno andrade disse...

21 April

Over the past few days I've seen Simon Mizrahi a number of times. Today he asks me to go and find the doctor who's looking after him. The doctor has told him he's getting out and seems to have forgotten about him for three days. I go out and talk to a nurse who tells me that the doctor had seen Simon just a few hours ago! So, he's losing his sense of time. Apparently, he will have permission to return home soon. Is this a sign that he's recovering or getting worse? She won't tell me.

I calm Simon down - he has no memory of this consultation (one day he asked Freda if he could see me, when I'd been there for an hour). He smiles; 'It's just that I have to be at the office next Monday to get back to work and look at a few tapes.' He asks me for the biography of Cukor before going to sleep.

23 April

Phone call from Simon Mizrahi's mother: 'You know, Monsieur Tavernier, I'm beginning to get worried about my son. He doesn't seem to be getting any better. And yet I'm bringing him nice things, all the things he likes. I'm worried, and I'm going to get into an argument with his brother, who won't let me.' I have a lump in my throat.

bruno andrade disse...

30 April – 2 May

(…) The only dark note of those three days, on Sunday the second I learned of the death of Simon Mizrahi. He'd gone home two weeks previously, and I'd visited him a number of times. He had struck me as very weak, very tired. He was dozing in a room with the shutters closed, as the light clearly made him feel worse. I'd brought him some books, a tape of Les Pirates du rail, a second-rate colonial movie by Christian Jaque, with one sequence where Stroheim indulges in a kind of carnival of props, striking someone with a stick, taking off his gloves, drinking from a gourd, wiping his mouth with a handkerchief, taking a map from a map-holder, unfolding it, looking through his binoculars, putting his sword on the table, drawing his revolver, filing his nails. The memory of this had brought a hint of a smile from Simon. He had managed to say that he would watch the film in two or three days in the office when he got back to work. His whole family was there watching over him with extraordinary gentleness. They had employed a nurse to take him to the bathroom and wash him. This considerate attentiveness overwhelms Freda, who came with me the first time. In the street he had said he wouldn't come back, because he couldn't bear to see this family that he loved so much being bruised and wounded in this desperate struggle. Simon's mother had told me that at the least sign of pessimism her other son shouted at her. Then she had asked Simon, 'When are you going to take me to the opera like you used to?' The next day they'd announced triumphantly that he'd got up and sat in the drawing-room for two hours. The day before he'd even had dinner with his family. To please him, I'd tried to find him some Chinese dishes. After wandering about in Boulogne I'd bought him some Cantonese rice and a mango. And then some crêmes brulées. He was asleep when I got back. His mother has told me yet again that he was still greedy, that he'd asked for some Comte, that his memory was intact and brilliant, that a number of Italian directors had phoned, that she was so lucky to have a son like him, so appreciated by everybody. And suddenly, in that corridor, I had a brief moment of happiness. Of admiration, too.

I had taken his hand and squeezed it, but not for long enough. I had trouble making the gesture and this evening I'm angry with myself for my cowardice. Why was I so afraid when I was near him?

After my last visit I found a message on my answering machine. It was Simon asking me to go and see the Skolimowski film, telling me that it was a masterpiece. He could hardly speak and was breathing with difficulty. It was the last time he spoke to me.

Bertrand Tavernier, I Wake Up Dreaming

(via Matheus)

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