France Location Day 5: Fred

France Location Day 5: Fred and Thomas went back to Paris Wednesday night. The rest of us stayed until Thursday morning. We got up at 7:00, checked out of our Twin Peaks castle, and rushed off to reshoot the approach to Thiepval. I wrote earlier that God was our co-pilot? Wrong. He was our key grip. The sun was at the exact height, with no clouds at all. As we drove up the empty hill, it came straight in the window of the car (Weíd sent the light kit back earlier, so as not to get hit with another dayís rental.). One take. Then we just popped over to the Memorial to see if we missed anything. Took a couple of fixed shots, on axis, very basic but very important.

As we finished, the caretaker for the Memorial came over and asked if we were filming for TV. Technically, no, so we didnít need permission from the War Graves Commission. Then he offered to take us up to the top of the arch. (We had to leave the big camera behind, but I took my Elph digital camera, which shoots AVI movies.) A million spiral stairs later, we got to the top, where the whole countryside came into view at once. Crystal clear, with maybe 15-20 other memorials and cemeteries in view.

The contrast between this pastoral landscape and the hellish condition it was in during the four years of fighting was amazing, but hard to visualize. Farmers and villagers moved back to pulverized villages within months, and restoration, reconstruction, and recuperation of the area took place on a massive scale. The resemblance between wartime accounts and photos and todayís rural farmland is extremely faint. Just as the red zone in Manhattan shrank and the skyline reset itself in peopleís minds. Do peopleís accounts and memories themselves become the real markers when the site of a cataclysm is reclaimed?

With questions like these, I feel like Iím writing a combination of Band of Brothers and Sex in the City.

The day ended there, basically, as we jammed back to Paris to settle up, get equipment back, etc. Everything will cost 50-100% more than you first thought. The Gursky show at the Pompidou was much nicer at first because it was more spread out than at MoMA. But it became apparent that it was smaller and less satisfying, too. The Madonna picture he did has a monitor with the NY Skyline in it, a seeming homage to the city he shouldíve been shooting on September 13.

Music possibilities: Tough. So much is uncertain for me. Right now, Iím considering Gabriel Orozcoís ìClinton is Innocentî and Ennio Morriconeís track, ìMichelangelo Antonioni,î by Caetano Veloso, which WNYC said was for the soundtrack of Le Professionel, starring Jean Paul Belmondo (but it's not). Last night at dinner, a friend suggested Bjork, which seemed an immediately excellent and natural option. Weíll take a listen. Any suggestions? [That spate of namedropping ought to lure a few people from the search engines.]

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: February 28, 2002.

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