London, April 12, 2004
We have decided to brainstorm for a few days in Italy. And reconnect with the St*rfish efforts. With 'BATMAN BEGINS' going now and having a few days off the year's calendar is starting to take some shape.
Tuesday, April 6
After arriving from London I meet up with G and we drive to Castellarquato’s neighbourhood. On the way at a truckstop we grab a panini and a cappuccino. The traffic is starting to slow down. Two rough and greasy-looking mechanics recognize me and instanly grab me to kiss me on both cheeks. The warm Italian blood. We overnight at the small B&B where I was before. The hundreds of chinawares at armslength. Across the street. You may remember. Two years ago already. Their owners offered two pups then. I mention this because I mentioned it to my wife - on the phone to LA - later at night and of course she will dream of them. Since our dog died recently. Which amazingly turned much of my hair grey overnight. Had never expected such impact. Anyway. The B&B hosts are so friendly, kind and interested. We drank some wine and ended up watching the two small documentaries on Rumania and Turks & Caicos's HIV kids.
Wednesday, April 7
We drive up through the thin morning fog to meet the director and a few other people from the 'TAN DANCE COMPANY'. They work from Milan and we have tried to meet for some time now because they would like to do "dance" in connection with St*rfish. Although English is barely spoken we seem to click in a major way and my heart is pounding with ideas as we leave. It is scary and exciting. But I'm looking forward to testing our likemindedness or understanding. Next we drive to a hospital in Pavia. A doctor there has been reseaching HIV/AIDS vaccines for years. We hope to inform ourselves and ask him a few questions. He tells us that he would like to build an independent organization to manage his new vaccine in possibly two more years. In order to steer free from politics and pharmacyprices. I see the smoldering dream in his eyes. But it is lunch time and he suggests we have some. His reseach facilities and the former psychiatric wings are open but for the rest that hospitalwing is waiting empty for reconstruction, which is badly needed. A small thing maybe but I don’t know what would be more depressing. A full hospital or an empty one. Next thing I know we are in a restaurant on the border of the Ticino River. With fine linen, wine, view and people. We talk. We spend the first twenty minutes pretasting the menu and analizing food in general. The actual lunch lasts almost three hours. It is delicious. Not to mention that Dr. Franco Lori is a very knowledgeable host.
I am amazed about the generous amount of his time he gives us. I have to drive more today. But the wine is like a velvet heart. He tells us that this is information day. It is one day every week. He shows us his Lab after lunch and we even jump in a spacesuit with gloves to see all. Then we sit around the table. Lab workers, secretaries and assistants. We are about 8.
He shows slides and explains what it is he is hoping to accomplish. I feel we can bring some of the real world home to him by offering to view the two documentaries I have. When I watch the one from Turks & Caicos I realize that our princess of Providenciales is not there anymore. Look at her there on the screen. It's only three years ago. I have always known it would come to this but I choke nevertheless. We also view the Rumanian children. That one day of happiness. 50 big smiles. The personal assistant of Dr Lori weeps. We know. Then we sit in his office for a while and chat and kisskiss goodbye.
We drive back to Milan. At a highway tollbooth we have to pay. We do. With G we say ciao. The guy doesn’t push the button to let us through but just looks at me, "non è vero...non è veroooo...è proprio lui!" which means he can’t believe that the two of us are sitting opposite eachother. Just like that. He can’t kiss me and I want to keep going. We shake hands. Big smile big time. We continue to Milan, return the rental car and I check in the Savoy Hotel. Great place. I even manage to finish reading one of the scripts I brought. I travel extremely light this time. Boy is that nice.
Thursday, April 8
On a quick notice we have arranged to meet 'TAN DANCE' for a last rehearsal today of one of their projects. I meet a cameraman who has done work for them. I meet about 15 excited dancers. They show me a few things. I watch. They are good and dedicated and the choreography is very interesting. I ask if we can do a few experiments. I give the camera to the DOP. We talk a little bit about the difference between stage and film. We shoot some footage. Then Marco - the dancer/director - shoots some more because he knows the moves. All on mpeg. In my mind I see the promise of all this take form. I have always wanted to play with dance and camera. I feel they belong together by nature. I also realize that the way to photograph dance needs a different eye and maybe even a different choreography. Testing. I notice right away that a dancer’s face is his body. How could I forget. And then the always necessary intensity of camera presence. More or less. Since camera and dancer now dance together the picture is getting very very busy. Need to explore this more but mirrors or other background structures are difficult. It takes us 30 minutes to end up with 9 or so "moving mpeg vignettes" documenting a group of dancers rehearsing. For promotional purposes alone this will be valuable to them. Especially on the web. I haven't seen or heard much about a website. My mind is spinning when I leave. It's great. Marco and I are solid material. He will leave for Venice to do a show on Saturday and Sunday. We say goodbye kisskiss and promise to find a way to develop something. What? When? In my head I will return and do this in 2004 providing work keeps me in Europe this year. I think it will.
Then we taxi to another meeting which has been postponed many times. The last time he had broken his leg. When I climb up the stairs to his apartment I find Ermanno Olmi and his wife who have not changed at all. Just not. I say it has been 16yrs and he says oh it iees onleeeee 10 meeeniieeetes. I am so happy we get to see eachother. And so is he. His English was always minimal and has not changed either. Oddly enough now - because G can translate - we have another great conversation. Something we only had a few times anyway. Inspiring. Lovely. Warm, and he gives me a bottle of the best Grappa to take back to London. As you may understand a discussion of the best Grappa can take some time. I won't do it here.
Friday, April 9
I unwrap a few B’day gifts that never got to me and THANK YOU ALL belatedly for your good wishes. G & I work on the layout and looks/contents of 'ST*RFISH TANGO'. It takes many hours but I can see it come into a great form and can hardly wait to see it into being. What a jewel it will be. Special & Limited Edition. I also think/know it is a start of something more. Another way of returning what all of you decided to give me and St*rfish. The traffic is rough. Easterbells are s(w)inging. Some rain. The Pope is addressing a large crowd etc. Too large. Of course we don't get everything done. Which makes us nervous. I am supposed to fly back Saturday. But since I advised my wife to fly into London a few days later because of the Eastertravelling hazards I decide to extend my stay and go back Sunday. I also hope I can see Marco/TAN DANCE one more time. I suggest we could rent a car and go to Venice if he's game and has time. It is decided we will meet after he gets back on Saturday evening at the hotel for another headbutt. Great.
Saturday, April 10
G & I work through most of Saturday and I end up back at the hotel around 7:30pm to possibly take a nap but of course I just call some people and think about the DANCE. Marco had mentioned he is working on a tango with music by Piazzolla. I love his music. So we may end up bringing that into the 'ST*RFISH TANGO' somehow. At night we meet one last time to figure what/how and I suggest we just let it simmer and see what comes back from all of this.
Sunday, April 11
G&I work for a few more hours through most of Easterbunny Sunday. And I get on the plane to London to continue 'BATMAN BEGINS'.
These were just a few days. But what a great and inspiring few days. Thanks G, could not do it without you.