Well THAT was satisfying. The grand-daughters of Bernard Natan, Lenick and Francoise, know how to put on a show, like their esteemed forebear. A plaque was unveiled at La Femis, the French National Film School, finally honouring the man who built the studio on Rue Francoeur which houses it. As speeches were read by the sisters and by historian Serge Klarsfeld (one of the stars of NATAN the movie), the curtain covering the plaque refused to obey the schedule and undraped itself. The attendants duly covered the brass plate again, but again it denuded itself, and still again, always just as the name “Bernard Natan” was being spoken. The message was clear: I’ve been covered up too long! I want to see the light!
The occasion brought together more of the people associated with the film than any previous screening, including translator, researcher, editor, and most of the interviewees. Sad that Paul Duane could be there but happy that what kept him from coming was a buzzing career.
Then we trotted upstairs to the Salle Jean Renoir, a beautiful projection room where Jerome the projectionist did a fine job. The movie was preceded by the newsreel footage of Natan at the inauguration party for the Rue Francoeur studio, and I was able to supply MC Serge Bromberg with a bit of info from our research period, gleaned from the memoirs of filmmaker and close Natan associate Henri Diamant-Berger’s memoirs. The piece of film was shot at the start of the party: Natan poses with a cabinet minister and other luminaries – then the negative was rushed over to the lab and processed at top speed, in time to be printed and projected at the end of the party.
After the screening – to a particularly attentive and serious crowd – I was introduced to the grandson of Diamant-Berger, which was a spectacular surprise. Someone it would have been nice to speak to while we were making the bloody film, but we didn’t know he existed, and that he’s extremely knowledgeable about his ancestor’s work. Our editor Eoin McDonagh also made it over, so I enjoyed a meal with him and ace film detective Lenny Borger (who discovered the missing scenes from LES MISERABLES among many other classics).
All in all, a rather gratifying experience. And in Paris, too.