Tue 24 January 2012

Bart van Loo blogs about Chartres (#3)

Belgian writer Bart van Loo is currently in Chartres for his citybooks residency. On his blog he writes about his experiences in the French city.

My two weeks in Chartres have come to an end. My mission: write a citybook about the city with the cathedral, an initiative of deBuren. I have written about my experiences here and this is my third and last episode. The actualy citybook will follow later.

chartres © bart van looChartres on crutches (3) : old and new filmglory

Guess who showed up at the theater nearly a few days ago? Pierre Richard, the star from Le grand blond ave une chaussure noire (1972) and La Chèvre (1981). Let’s have some fun, I thought. I was looking forward to a refreshing dip into that deep pool of nostalgia. But alas, alas. All we got were some cheesy jokes and a very meager presence on  stage. The audience laughed, but not out loud. They applauded politely and afterwards waited for the star in the foyer. Fortunately, a reputation like that isn’t quicky damaged by one less-than-stellar performance.

On Saturday I was expected in the local Médiathèque for a talk. In the presence of a very interested audience, the host, Thierry Plantegenet, asked me several pungent questions on Europe, literature, Chartres, plaster, and crutches. Next, an actor arrived at the scene. He had chosen one of my texts to read to the audience: an account of my nightly adventures in the Antwerp Hôtel du Commerce (described on the first few pages of my novel O vermiljoenen spleet! about French erotic literature). The crowd listened intently, chuckled at certain fragments, and their applause was heartwarming. Indeed, Thomas Marceul fervently internalized my erotic contemplations. Actually, I had planned to read the piece myself, but no, I was told clearly before the talk, they had hired an actor to do so. And behold, suddenly my tekst took on a different meaning. It turned out to be very interesting being one's own audience.

To conclude my residency I went to see Intouchables, the hit film in France right now. Box office numbers reaching the likes of La grande vadrouille and Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis. Forget those statistics, though, and just enjoy the funny and moving story. But definitely go see it, no doubt about that. What you probably won't see, though, are the commercials from Chartres. A dozen local merchants advertise in this cinema. It reminded me of my youth, when once, during a commercial for our local supermarket Driesen, the newly famous locals ran to the screen of cinema Funkis in Herentals. That was a long time ago, but Chartres was relentless in taking me back to the quiet region of my youth. The past never ends.

It has been good here. Between the dead and the living, between the past and the present. Between the cathedral and my crutches. Between glass windows and plaster. Au revoir. Au grand plaisir de se revoir.

* A cult scene from La Chèvre, with Gérard Dépardieu and Pierre Richard.

** The trailer of Intouchables

Photo: southern tower of the cathedral

Bart van Loo © Koen Broos

Bart van Loo blogs on http://bartvanloo.blogspot.com/



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