GTO 3987 on Mulholland

GTO 3987 on Mulholland

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The bar at the Hôtel Georges V

Beginning my filmmaking career in Paris as I did was something of an adventure. Most people wanting a career in film leave home to come to Hollywood--not that such a place actually exists, if you take my meaning. For my part, I left 'Hollywood' to go to France because I had been seduced by all the French films I'd seen beginning with Claude Lelouch's Un homme et une femme (A Man and a Woman). I didn't know anyone there but I did have the phone number of a friend's sister. I went through some very uncertain times during this period but France--Paris--was very rewarding as well.

During one of my frequent returns to Paris, I was having drinks with a friend in the bar of the Hôtel Georges V. As we sat at the bar, a gentleman whom the French would refer to as a tête de noble-- someone with physical characteristics indicating royal lineage--sat next to us and proclaimed, "This has been the best day of my life." The man knew how to open a conversation with a couple of complete strangers.

It turns out, the gentleman had concluded a financial arrangement with an artist in whom he was quite interested. He was a connoisseur of fine things and was ravi to have become associated with the artist's work. "Do you like art?" he asked us. We answered in the affirmative whereupon he made a discreet and cryptic gesture to the barman who understood what was meant for he immediately moved to a corner of the bar where he opened a closet door hidden in the wood paneling. He returned with a very large 'coffee table' book documenting the work of the Iraqi-born calligrapher now living in France Hassan Massoudy. The gentleman paged through the book with us explaining various aspects of the work and exhibiting an enthusiastic appreciation for the artist's talent. His interest was contagious and I was delighted by what I was seeing. This was not lost on the gentleman who asked, "Do you really like these?" I replied that I did.

No sooner had I done so than he made another discreet gesture to the barman who, once again, visited the placard in the corner. This time he returned with a large artist's portfolio which he handed to the gentleman who opened it to reveal a large quantity of hand signed and numbered Massoudy prints. He allowed us to leaf through these taking delight in our pleasure. When we had finally seen them all, he asked if we had a favorite. We did. I indicated one that bore the hand-written phrase "Si vous venez vers moi en marchant, c'est en courant que je viendrai vers vous." (If you come walking towards me, I will come running towards you). My friend indicated his own favorite. "Then, they are yours," he told us.

We continued to talk about a variety of things and finally it was time to take our leave. I handed the print back to the gentleman just in case I had mis-heard his gracious and generous offer. He looked surprised and reaffirmed the gift. We parted company in the best of spirits. Coincidentally, my friend and I returned to the Georges V bar the next night and again encountered our new friend. He was pleased to see us and, gratifyingly, did not ask for his prints to be returned to him.

Recently, I gifted the Massoudy print to my daughter who speculated on its value. I told her to take the current retail value and multiply it by about a hundred. She was perplexed so I explained, "This came into our hands only because of me being me and, to date, that has cost a fortune!"

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