Art & Consequence: Amateurism from Tiego Rodrigues; Authenticity from Emilia Nogueiro and Miguel Moreira e Silva; Miro gives back



Mixed-media work by Miguel Moreira e Silva. Courtesy Gallery Historia e Arte.


PARIS – The argument against calling a show the worse you’ve ever seen is that no one starts out intending to make a terrible dance, film, or piece of theater or music. But if one should be gentle with unintentional disasters, when it comes to works from laureated directors that disdain a whole segment of the population, are intellectually and artistically lazy, poorly-prepared and poorly-rehearsed, pointlessly abusive of audience comfort, and in the supposed guise of enlisting the participation of amateurs are simply amateurish, the informed critic who knows better needs to be merciless. Tiago Rodrigues’s “Ce soir ne se repetera jamais” or “This night will never be repeated” (let’s hope), seen May 24 at the Theatre de la Bastille, is, simply put, the worse piece of theater I have ever seen outside of those which involved images of animals or children being tortured, an abandoning  of what the theater should and can stand for.

With his “Bovary,” raved by me elsewhere, Rodrigues, director of Lisbon’s national theater, had certainly set me up nicely.  Performed in the rubric of the misleadingly named two-month long “Occupation Bastille,” which also includes “Bovary” and another piece under construction as we speak (I shudder), “Ce soir ne se repetera jamais” supposedly involved 90 amateurs as well as the (French) professionals from “Bovary.” (I specify (French) to underscore that ignorance of  the terrain cannot be offered as an excuse for this debacle.)  ‘Supposedly” because from what I saw on stage as well as the knowing chuckles from many in the audience, a good number of the “amateurs” were in fact employees of the Theatre de la Bastille, just that we don’t usually  see onstage. Thus we got neither the precious (in the positive sense of that term) authenticity of the real non-professional and the innocence with which s/he approaches creation, nor the high standard of the professional. With the exception of a genuine cafe owner from across the street who was fetched to perform a touching rendition of a familiar Algerian folk song, with the audience chiming in for  the chorus, most of the “amateurs’” speeches consisted of commenting on what they “saw” on the rue Roquette outside of the theater, Rodrigues opening the piece with what appears, in retrospect, as a pompous statement about there being no difference between the ‘rue’ and the theater, or the theater being an extension of the rue, or vice versa. But most of the amateurs as well as a professional commenting on the view of outside from inside seemed to see the same mundane things on the street (with the exception of one speaker’s mis-comparing Roquette to a street to New York) which, considering the repute of this particular Parisian street, suggests that they may be seeing but they’re not really observing.

From their opening in 1851 through 1899, the Roquette prisons, conveniently situated across the street from the cemetery Pere Lachaise, were the principal point of decapitation in Paris, with 69 people guillotined. Jean Genet would later be incarcerated there as a 15-year-old when the prison was reserved for young people, as would the abortionist Marie-Louise Giraud before she was killed, although by 1943 the heads were being cut off elsewhere. Currently, outside a charming 60s-style park with descending cascades (not always cascading), an elaborate contraption has been built which lures pigeons in with food and sends them out sterile. Closer to the Theatre de la Bastille, still on the rue Roquette, stands a synagogue now guarded by armed soldiers since an incident in 2014.  And even closer to the theater, just outside an anarchist bookstore, an armed gendarme is posted (not necessarily  to protect the anarchists). Now if these are the histories even an itinerant tourist can reconnoiter, you can’t tell me that the amateur performers occupying the stage of the theater they go to work at every day can’t do better than the equivalent of “There are people passing on the street, sometimes they look in at me,” although I did like one employee’s wishing that the angel on the nearby Place de la Bastille could uproot itself and fly away (as did I at various points during the performance, starting during the 15 minutes after scheduled curtain when I was trapped in an increasingly congested lobby as the spectators continued to pour in from the street but the theater doors remained closed, a disturbing lapse at a time when we’re living in an officially decreed State of Emergency under which crowds are discouraged).

The above are just omissions. It’s in its commissions that “Ce soir…” is truly honteuse, or disgraceful. At one point David Geselsen — who earlier gave his own excruciatingly long riff about what he sees on the street, which went something like, “And sometimes I wonder if the people on the street can see me watching them seeing me seeing them,” for which he still, like most of the performers ‘amateur’ and professional, relied upon scripts, or maybe this was just meant as another anti-theater signifier – at one point Geselson recounts meeting an old high-school girlfriend on the subway. The part of the ex-girlfriend is soon taken up by an apparently (but not really, judging by the professional-level performance that he delivers) homeless man who seems to have wandered onto the stage. When, asked what she’s doing these days, the ex-girlfriend responds, “I’ve been working at Carrefour for seven years,” referring to the international supermarket chain, many snobby and superior Parisians in the audience start sniggering.  For these (not all in the audience)  artsy Parisians, working at a supermarket all day is worthy of contemptuous chuckles. Well, when I’m not reviewing theater and theater audiences in Paris, I live in a small town in the Southwest of France. My friend and neighbor  S. has worked for Carrefour or other super-markets for most of her life. At 57 years old she loads  groceries onto shelves, which often means pushing around a heavily charted cart. I say this not to disdain her job but to reinforce that my friend probably works harder than most of the smug Parisians who were sniggering at those in her situation. With her husband P., a stone-mason, she has been able to have a nice home made of old medieval stone, like mine, and they’ve built an even nicer house for their retirement in a nearby county. Next to my other neighbors – a retired plumber and a retired factory worker who no doubt would also merit the contempt of the Parisian sniggerers – they are the most generous people I know. I would trade their wisdom and sense for that of the Parisian cognoscenti any day. They are also among the tax-payers who help make possible the unique unemployment regime of France’s Intermittents, or freelance artists and technicians. (Essentially, it allows them to accumulate the 507 hours over 10 or 10.5 months which qualify them for unemployment  compensation from multiple employers.) I am all for this system, and I am aware that to qualify for the unemployment, these artists are not just taking  glory jobs; even entertaining for children’s parties counts. But I think a little more respect and a little less contempt for those whose tax money in part supports them (no doubt Geselson and his professional colleagues are themselves intermittents), and who don’t have the chance to be on stage, would be le moin des choses.

…And – much less significant but important to note, as it’s an indicator of a general contempt for the spectator which I felt during this show and from Rodrigues in particular – a bit more attention to audience comfort would also be appreciated. Besides the uncomfortable and unsafe sardine situation created by the delayed opening of the theater doors, once we were finally permitted to enter , I (and others) endured for the next 90 minutes a photographer perched practically on my shoulder, with his shutter constantly going off and a very bright spotlight regularly illuminating the entire aisle. Most professional photographers, where they must shoot during a performance, do their best to be unobtrusive and rely on just the stage lighting. And/or they shoot the final dress. I would not be surprised if there was no final dress here, especially as what we were subjected to seemed more like a first rehearsal than a finished evening of work. Finally, it should be added that despite all the hullabaloo about “Occupation Bastille” being a grand experiment in bringing democracy to the theater (an urge that resonates these days in France), in sum this read like a piece mostly (and badly) prepared by the clever director and his acolytes, with rudimentary and unoriginal audience-participation like moments  interjected here and there, and the ‘professionals’ often talking over these  already scattered speeches.

Just so you know that not everything that comes from Portugal is fatuous, two Thursdays ago, in the gallery of the Artists Ateliers of Belleville association on the rue Francis Picabia, I had the chance to chat with Emilia Nogueiro, a galleriste from the Portuguese border village of Braganca, and one of her artists, Miguel Moreira e Silva, who by his profile might also merit the contempt of David Geselson and Tiego Rodrigues. Silva is a farmer. “Worse,”  his work is earnest, without the least touch of post-modern irony or detachment. The open-faced boxes I saw reminded me variously of Joseph Cornell’s treasure boxes, the Surrealist collaborative boxes created  by (justement) Picabia and his colleagues, and even Day of the Dead cigar-box shrines. All of these multi-dimensional works featured door keys among their pot-pourri, evoking the medieval Unicorn tapestries housed at New York’s Cloisters museum. Peering out of sepia photos from most of them were family members; in one, Silva pointed out to me, a lone child is separated from the larger group photo. Skulls and other skeleton parts figure prominently, as do gargoyle-like sculpted heads the artist made himself. Sharp objects like knives add an element of peril which only make the sum more precious. A U.S. quarter even lurks in one. When I spoke to the artist at the opening, he said the religiosity was important to him, but the boxes were so densely packed with other elements that this didn’t alienate me as it usually does.

When I spoke with Nogueiro, the galleriste, a pedigreed specialist who speaks at least three languages  fluently, she agreed that attracting paysans (my word choice) into a gallery in a small village isn’t evident. (For a brief time, I ran a gallery in a village in the Languedoc; our biggest success was a giant and real bird’s nest that a friend found in the woods.) Then somehow – perhaps in discussing the ready appeal of Silva’s work – we got onto the subject of art accessibility. (My word choice again.)  Perversely (ibid), Nogueiro said, the ‘60s conceptualists, who started out wanting to make art more accessible, locked it up when they spiraled into hyper-conceptualism; no one could understand it any more. I argued, and she agreed, that it’s possible for art to do both: to please the non-studied eye and to offer something extra for those looking for more (symbols, references, historical tie-ins, and other meat for intellectuals or quasi-intellectuals like me) to chew on.

Perhaps it was because it had me thinking of the Spanish border (not far from Nogueiro’s gallery, Historia e Arte), but the artist who most comes to mind as meeting these criteria is Joan Miro. Like Silva’s boxes, Miro’s oeuvres, as much as they can deliver pleasure contemplated as is, frequently include a decoder, often delivered in a cloying title. I’ve just opened up the special issue no. 58 of Opus International, from 1976, entirely dedicated to the “Poetique de Miro,” to a page featuring the reproduction of a tableau full of spheres, eyeball/targets, circles, four-pronged stars, red and black Chinese lanterns, and myriad hourglasses. That’s  a basic  suggestion of what you might see on the surface of the work. But the title, “Women encircled by the flight of a bird,” can also send you in more analytical directions.



Joan Miro (1893-1983), “The lady playing checkers.” Lithograph, 1969, printed on red and white checked cloth laid on Mandeure chiffon (as issued), signed and numbered 34/75, published by Maeght, Paris, the full sheet, in good condition. Image & Sheet 850 x 603 mm. Christie’s pre-sale estimate: 1,500 – 2,500 pounds. Price realized in Christie’s May 19 sale: 2,000. Image courtesy and coyright Christies Images Ltd. 1016.

In this sense, Miro was a populist or an artist of the people – not in the cynical sense of a Tiago Rodrigues, who employs false, but in the sense of someone emerged from the popular class who hasn’t forgotten this. As a former exile – from Spain to France during the Spanish Civil War – he also  appreciated the plight of refugees. Thus for his grandson, Joan Punyet Miro, it made sense to donate the entirety of the proceeds of Christie’s London’s May 19 sale of 28 Miro multiples, or $69,122, to the Red Cross’s efforts to help those fleeing Syria.  “This is a way to remember that life is not always easy for everybody,” Miro the grandson told the Agence France Presse, as quoted by Hyperallergic’s  Carey Dunne.  “My grandfather would have done the same thing. He always wanted to help the most disadvantaged, the refugees and those in exile, and would be aware that what is happening today in Syria could happen tomorrow in Spain.”

What do  both these stories have to do with the debacle of Tiego Rodrigues’s “Ce soir…”? Silva’s art, like Nogueiro’s mission of promoting art in the nether-reaches of the Portuguese provinces, like Miro’s art and like his grandson’s decision to sell it to help Syrian refugees – all of these are consequential. These are consequential times. Artists can play a vital role in *mitigating* what the real world is meting out. That doesn’t mean their work always has to be political, or even serious, but that it needs to be substantial, it needs to be considered, and that time on a stage or in an atelier or gallery cannot be squandered.

On the night of the attacks, in this same theater – the Bastille – a different troupe was performing a comic take on unemployment, a huge issue in France and in Europe. The four comedians took turns sending responses to job announcements in which they explained why, alas, they would not be able to accept the job (which had not yet been offered to them).  The show was mostly comedic but it was meticulously prepared and flawlessly enacted and invested. Today in France, the main union and its acolytes are violently responding to a proposed work law which many don’t like; they are blocking and shutting down refineries, with the apparent goal of bringing France to its knees. It is clear that the union leader is manipulating  the issue to regain credibility lost when its previous chief resigned after questions were raised about his spending.  The union is even promoting antagonism against the police  (never mind how over-worked and under stress the police have been since the Charlie Hebdo killings) with posters showing police beating protestors down.

Art shows another way.

— Paul Ben-Itzak

Paris Dispatch, 6/1/2016: Duck at work or, Donuts for Delphine Seyrig

by Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2016 Paul Ben-Itzak

PARIS – Actually, the dateline should be ‘Pantin,’ or as an off-duty clown acquaintance I ran into on the rue Cascades during the Open Studios of Belleville  on my way to DJ for  a couple of artist colleagues, one of whose work includes skeleton comics (“How to get rid of an unwanted skeleton pal”) corrected me, “Pantin.” (I’ve been having French people correct me by repeating what I thought I just said for 16 years.) I had been planning to hedge it because ‘Pantin’ doesn’t sound as glamorous as ‘Paris,’ or, after realizing I could walk to Belleville via the tres mignon  (in a desuet or obsolete sort of way) ‘burb of St.-Gervais, declare that I’m living in “Outer Belleville.”


One reason I love living in “Outer Belleville”:  The proximity to the work of Belleville artists such as  Kristin Meller, whose above wood-cut, “Candide” was part of a four-part series displayed during the recent Open Studios of Belleville at the gallery/atelier of the Association l’Estampe et l’Art Populaire on the rue Cascades, which Meller co-directs with Raoul Velasco, whose etching and intaglio  “Tout rentré dans l’ordre” is published below. 

In fact, Pantin is actually closer to my Paris – the Canal St. Martin, into which Pantin’s Ourcq canal flows before it empties out into the Seine after passing by the Bastille – than the outer reaches of the 20th arrondissement where I lived in 2010, even though I was right off the tres Parisian sounding Place Edith Piaf, complete with statue of La Mome. At the moment I’m writing this, I should be in an even more Parisian part of Paris, the Marais (once the Jewish sector, then the Gay quartiere, now full of fashion shops), watching a Polish theater company bring to life 100 real photographs of the social lives of the commandants of Auschwitz (how does  one unwind after spending the day gassing Jews?), but as the Home page of my performance magazine is now garnering about 26 visitors per day, few of whom are ready to pay to actually read the complete articles, I figure that after 40 years of covering the (often cloistered) vision of performing artists, it’s time to cut out the middle man and write about the spectacle of real life as I see it. And if it hadn’t been for a dentist’s appointment this afternoon, I mightn’t have ventured out at all and would have spent the whole day writing about what I’ve already seen since I returned to Pantin/Paris two weeks ago. This includes a platoon of AK-47 armed soldiers on the subway line running from the Port Dauphine to La Defense (not the home of the Defense department, but the business district, which Jacques Tati turned into a modernist Paris Playland for the 1967 “Playtime”), who no one else on the train seemed to notice. “Well, it’s meant to discourage the terrorists,” a Pantinese acquaintance pointed out. Given the high toll of the fire-fight likely to ensue if a suicidal terrorist started anything, such a hyper-military presence seems more an incentive than a deterrent. I prefer to think – and the relaxed attitudes of the young men as they joked with each other seem to confirm this – that they were simply on their way home to the barracks, even the sneakers they were wearing, the same they might sport if they’d just been shooting hoops, indicating that they might have been on stand-down.

There were no soldiers on the bus my new and groovy Pantinese roommate raced onto the day after my arrival when I called to announce that the skeleton key had lost its upper teeth, which I’d only discovered after I’d shut the door. Seeking a phone from which to call her, I’d descended to the ground floor and knocked on many doors with the sound of people arguing behind them before a harried bob-haired young woman in glasses finally opened and ceded. “Okay, but make it quick, because we’re in the middle of an intervention.” However, by the time the co-locataire  (roommate) I’ll call “Sabine” got to the back of the bus, she’d lost her cell phone. At about the moment she realized this, a man wearing a “Just do it” tee-shirt raced to the front of the bus, picked something up, then returned to the back before hopping off, so she decided to tail him. Shades of Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel in the 1968 “Stolen Kisses,” in which Antoine (the growing up, but still incorrigible 14-year-old of the 1959 “The 400 Blows”; Truffaut would follow the lives and loves of Antoine for 20 years) gets hired as a detective. (The movie is one of three of the five Antoine films featuring the Montmartre cemetery, starting with “The 400 Blows,” in which Antoine and a pal cross the bridge above the cemetery to return a typewriter they’ve just stolen from his step-father’s office. Truffaut would eventually be buried there, his tomb attracting letters asking for advice from all over the world. The actor who played Antoine, Jean-Pierre Leaud, was honored last week-end at Cannes, from which the reporter for France Culture radio reported that the 71-year-old former ‘fetish’ actor of both Godard and Truffaut and over whose persona they disputed the direction of the New Wave now resembles “an old Indian.”) Sabine ultimately lost her quarry when he dashed into an Antoine et Lilly’s boutique and cut out the back. I will have to sit her down to watch Ben Gazzara following Audrey Hepburn in Bogdanovich’s 1980 “They all Laughed” to see how a professional tail job is executed. (Just to complete the Leaud-Truffaut-Godard filmography: At about the same time Truffaut was sending him shuffling from bourgeoisie job to bourgeoisie job in “Stolen Kisses,” Godard cast Leaud as both a Maoist revolutionary in “La chinoise” *and* as Robespierre’s partisan Saint-Just in “Week-end.” In “Stolen Kisses,” Leaud-Antoine’s last job is as a television repairman, suggesting a clairvoyance on Truffaut’s part about where Godard would end up.)

In case you’re still not convinced that droll Parisian-like things happen in Pantin, or at least to Pantinese girl detectives and ‘boy’ bourlingeurs (a fancy word for ‘vagabond’ which I picked up from Blaise Cendrars’s “Bourlinguer”) – not counting my observing a motorcyclized city employee circle the trees lining the banks of the Ourcq to spear dog-poop (“That was Chirac” who instituted the anti-poop campaign, Sabine informs me, indicating at least one legacy the former French president has in common with the late San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk) – on Thursday evening, at the respectable hour of 8 p.m., my roommate and I decided to alert the neighbors to my birthday fete for Saturday, even though at that point it was becoming more and more theoretical, what with all the guest couples breaking up. First Phil & Bill, from the local de-radicalization center, then me and what I thought was an incipient relationship with a young woman I met on the Metro during my last Paris-Pantin visit after I noticed her reading Bukowski’s “Journal of a Deguelasse Old Man” (although “Deguelasse” as a translation for “Dirty” doesn’t seem to quite go with Belmondo’s last words for Seberg – “C’est deguelasse” — after she betrays him in Godard’s 1960 “Breathless”), praying I hadn’t hooked up with a cheek mutilator. (See “Tales of Ordinary Madness,” Marco Ferreri’s 1982 film in which Gazzara plays the Bukowski figure, and Ornella Muti loses some of her sex appeal when she pokes a hand-sized safety pin through one cheek until it sticks out the other. The safety-pin shenanigans get worse, to an extent which would make Brando and Schneider (in “Last Tango…”) blanche, but it’s still worth it for the scene of Gazzara/Bukowski dazedly stumbling over Venice Beach in Groucho glasses after Muti’s pin-ultimate scene.) After I wrote my French Bukowski buff last week to thank her for furnishing the highlight of my week, she wrote me back to say that she hoped I didn’t think our date, at the vernissage for the opening of the Open Studios of Belleville, was a date (as opposed to something more ‘amicale’), as she wasn’t in that mode. When I replied that I was disappointed, she wrote back to say she was disappointed with the way I expressed my disappointment, giving you an idea of how the level of Franco-American dating dialogue has plummeted since Kelly & Caron (in Minelli/Kelly’s 1951 “American in Paris”), even if the denouement has not yet descended to the deguelasse level of Belmondo & Seberg. Anyway, by politesse Sabine and I still thought it a good idea to warn the neighbors.

Everything went well until we got to the couple living below us, who answered our invitation (politely enough), with a question: “Are you the guy who’s been moving furniture around at 1 in the morning?” asked the husband as the wife rolled her eyes and head and added, ”C’est horrible, on ne dort plus.” “I guess I should remove my authentic Fort Worth cowboy boots (with the genuine manure lines that distinguish real cowboys from the dime-store variety) at night,” I told Sabine after they closed the door. The next neighbor, two floors down (I think Sabine over-estimates the strength of my computer speakers, which are not as emphatic as my boots), revealed himself as a bearded middle-aged Mickey Rooney (without the faux-Japanese buck teeth from Blake Edwards’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” or “Donuts sur la 5eme avenue,” as it translates in French; just to get another A. Hepburn reference in, I’m making Audrey and Cary Grant in Donen’s “Charade” my new model for Parisian romance – at least the age difference fits) and upon Sabine’s introducing me, in a way that must have suggested I was a practical joker, “Mickey” plucked at the graying chest hairs peeping out from my shirt, pinching the exact spot where my sole remaining chicken pox pimple (I shouldn’t have scratched) from the great Timber (as Audrey/Holly announces the imminent fall of a drunken floozy at her wild party) Cove Chicken Pox Plague of 1968 is the only vulnerable sector in my chest, not counting the one to its left.

But getting back to my date who announced after the first date I’d had in 15 years that it wasn’t a date but something more amicable, and lest you think that I’ve got no prospects: On Sunday, I had an Antoine Doinel-Delphine Seyrig moment – she played the older woman, the wife of the owner of the shoe store whose infidelities Antoine’s detective agency sent him to fetter out (which he did) in “Stolen Kisses,” the third film of the Antoine cycle (click the link for their romantic scene), before she portrayed the dowdy (spoiler alert) middle-aged homicidal prostitute in Chantal Akerman’s 1975 “Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” – at the Open Studios of Pere Lachaise (another cemetery, if you’re keeping track) when an older artist, after addressing me as “Mon chou,” swiped my tail end. (When I last saw Seyrig on screen, she was portraying Sylvia Plath’s mother in an exchange of their letters staged by Akerman, before both Plath and Akerman committed suicide, the latter in Belleville at the beginning of October in what might have been a premonitionary defense against the November attacks, and what others speculate was a reaction to losing her Auschwitz survivor mother in 2014, juxtaposed with seeing French soldiers guarding Jewish schools in 2015.) I was tempted, but I walked it off, heading down to the canal – on the way passing by the Carillon and the Petite Cambodia, the caddy-corner cafes where the “Islamic State” killers had massacred the terrace-dwellers, but which I’d avoided visiting in the days after November 13 precisely because this corner was on my regular beat between Belleville and the canal. (I seem to dwell on November 13 more than my Parisian acquaintances; it’s almost as if because I left Paris on December 15, I’m five months behind them in the recovery/morning process. The direct victims had the right to therapy, as they should, but what about those of us who were not physically injured but just find our quotidian routes mined with menace? Some of the key Metro entrances are now guarded by the national police, as if to announce that you’re leaving the neutral zone, have lost your invisibility cloak, and the Romulans could attack at any moment. ((Maybe this is why I keep cancelling performances for which I have free tickets, at least at downtown theaters; I who never let a snowstorm stop me from driving to a barber’s appointment in Anchorage am not keen to enter a war zone every time I go to the theater. In Antoine’s time (((“Domicile Congugale,” 1974))), the most he risked by entering a Metro station was that a diaper ad would make him realize why his wife had asked him to drop her off at the gynecologist’s. If I’m ever to venture downtown again, it will be for a date; I’d like to think that there’s at least the possibility of a diaper in my future.))) After pausing at the Carillon / Cambodia – where most of the tributes have been taken down; life goes on — I walked by my old café d’habitude Le Valmy where, miraculously, my first server of 13 years ago was at the bar chatting with friends. (I used to go into the Valmy in 2003 and ostentatiously shake my head at Le Monde’s accounts of the American butchery in Iraq; the server had vigorously defended me when another client accused me of knocking his espresso to the floor when I got too excited during a poetry slam ((“Whenever life gets me down, I just have another cup of espresso.” – Shel Silverstein)). It was on this same street that hooligans last week set fire to a police car – while two officers were in it – following a demonstration at the nearby Place de Republique against hatred of the police.) I invited him to the party. I also invited Fabrice, my former plumber, whose courage I’ve admired, as an example to follow, ever since he tried to drag (pick-up on) me. Maybe Fabrice and the former server will defend me from the chicken pox picking neighbor if he shows up at the party in a particularly feisty mood. Eventually I made it to the Basin la Villette and on to Pantin, along the way passing a peniche with the painted warning, “Duck at work. Don’t disturb,” and counting more couples – I stopped at 50 – speaking English than French, and who I finally figured must be coming from the Cabaret Sauvage across the water, outside of which a poster announced, “Share Fest 2016,” proving that the Californians have finally been kicked out of Seattle and are lapping at the shores of the Ourcq, to misquote the Indigo Girls. At the Paris-Pantin frontier, under a plaque announcing “Entering Pantin,” a street sign for the 19th arrondissement of Paris announced, “Rue Delphine Seyrig.” Under it someone had spray-painted “Donuts!”

PS: “Sabine” says I shouldn’t leave out ‘la suite’ to the broken key – possibly stolen cell phone incident. Evidently still bousculated  by this crime wave and an aborted career as the French answer to Nancy Drew which lasted even less longer than Antoine’s as a Hardy Boy (note to French readers: both are fictional teen detectives from the 1950s), that afternoon Sabine forgot to take her polka-dotted (“C’est quoi ‘polka-dotted?” S. asks as she looks over my shoulder) dress with her as she headed to the rehearsal for her somewhat savage cabaret show that night at a bar under the Viaduct called “La souffle de la soufflé;.” Failing to make me understand by her panicked text messages that afternoon that she wanted me to bring the dress to her at her hair-dresser’s (“I asked her to curl my hair,” she explained to me later under a very uncurled ‘do which had been matted by the maussade temps we’ve been having; bienvenue a Seattle.), she’d dashed back to the house in Pantin, engaged a taxi-driver outside the Metro station to meet her chez nous in 20 minutes, and ended up converting the back of the cab into her lodge, using the windows as mirrors as she applied her make-up. “This is the most sublime moment of my day,” she shared. “Reminds me of ‘Holy Motors,’” I replied, referring to the Leo Carax 2012 film in which a hired actor, played by Carax fetish Denis Levant, gets driven around Paris in a limousine that also acts as his changing room to take part in scenes — as the victim of a hit job, the husband of an ape, a lunatic disturbing a ceremony at Pere Lachaise, Kylie Minogue jumping off the roof of the closed Samaritaine department store, etc. — that the witnesses think are genuine. Only now we’re the victims, and it’s for real.

— Paul Ben-Itzak


raultoutrentre“Tout rentré dans l’ordre,” etching and intagliio, Raoul Velasco of the Association l’Estampe et l’Art Populaire in Belleville, Paris.