GTO 3987 on Mulholland

GTO 3987 on Mulholland

Thursday, June 10, 2010

In the Hôtel Georges V

It is an improbable fact that, much in the way Paris has become a second home to me, the Hôtel Georges V has been the living room in that home. When I first came to know it, I could barely have afforded a coffee in the bar but the edifice fascinated me regardless of my finances. I have come and gone from its comforts in different times and circumstances and always with the feeling that it is a place I understand and which understands me. You see, I am a people watcher, as are most filmmakers I would wager, and the hotel always offers a great collection.

Recently, I was seated in La Galerie for an early dinner to find a very interesting fellow at the next table. He was not more than thirty wearing what appeared--to the untrained eye--to be a tailor-made cassock, black patent leather shoes and perfectly starched French cuffs with links. Given that I am a watch fancier, I did not fail to notice the Cartier Tank on his left wrist. The attire was not out of place or uncommon for the Georges V except that this wasn't just any fellow--he was a priest. Not just any priest from the look of him. What really caught my attention was his body posture. His semi-reclined attitude spoke to me of someone accustomed to luxury, privilege and more. The 'more' I speak of being power.

The priest sat with his secular companion whose body English was somewhat different--more erect, attentive. I watched them over the course of an hour. The companion spoke, the priest commented with the occasional, offhanded gesture of one not totally concerned with the outcome. George V himself would probably have struck the same pose when granting an audience to his own courtiers.

I've been intrigued by many of the hotel guests over the years, but this priest had me wondering. Who was he? What could reconcile a vow of poverty with his obvious nonchalance in these opulent surroundings? I know I'm being naive but surely the juxtaposition is something of a collision rather than a gentle placement. Perhaps he was an emissary from the Vatican? Clearly the Cartier on the black strap and his impeccable French cuffs made an impression on me.

Discreetly, I asked my server if the priest's clothing gave any indication of his rank. I am not Catholic, he replied. "You are French?" I asked in jest. "I was baptized but never participated," he assured me. "Then," I told him, "you are a true Frenchman," which he seemed to enjoy immensely.

Finally, the priest and his companion left while I remained. I'll never know who or what he was. I can only imagine what was behind his composed and mildly condescending indifference. And what I imagine will, no doubt, one day make its way into a film. Should the priest ever see it, I wonder if he will recognize himself.

The drawing of him seen above was rendered by my friend Chad Glass who plans a further development on the theme in the form of a triptych. Those familiar with the Georges V will recognize the exact location of our tables in La Galerie.

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