Thursday, December 14, 2006
For a number of years I have been going from time to time to Au Petit fer à cheval, a charming little old-Parisian bar on rue Vieille du Temple in the Marais, which takes its name from the horse-shoe bar that dominates the front room, rendering space at the bar at a premium. It's not a regular haunt but it is welcoming enough whenever I go there and it is a ninety-second walk from my workplace, making it ideal for a morning coffee. The place is not as fashionable as it was about three years ago, when a fire temporarily closed it and thus forced the actor Romain Duris to find a new watering hole; the new place was the shabby brasserie La Perle five blocks up the street and which the crowd duly flocked to. For all those years I have stared at the large 5ft by 3ft poster of a now-forgotten 1959 French film by Claude Autant-Lara named La Jument verte (or The Green Mare, as it is known in English). It has piqued my interest for a number of reasons, mainly because Autant-Lara, who is best known for his Simenon adaptation En Cas de malheur starring Jean Gabin and Brigitte Bardot and who died six years ago this week - the very same week as the great Robert Bresson - was forced to stand down as an octogenarian European Parliament candidate for the Front National in 1989 after he described the Nazi gas chambers as a 'string of lies', sterner words even than his boss Jean-Marie Le Pen's infamous 'detail of history' remark.
But, apart from this there is the presence of Jean Aurènche and Pierre Bost as screenwriters, stalwarts of postwar French cinema, and who were at the time being vilified as purveyors of le cinéma de papa by Truffaut and Godard, only to later be rescued from oblivion by Bertrand Tavernier, writing the script for his superb debut film L'Horlogier de Saint-Paul, itself a Simenon adaptation. The film comes with the warning 'interdit aux moins de 18 ans', which made it racy enough for the day, as is attested by the review on the IMDb, which is unusually articulate for a commentary on that site. The poster also boasts projection in 'Franscope', evidently a product of les Trentes glorieuses, and the tagline is 'la plus belle conquête du cinéma'. Even after years here, and many hours of boredom, the essential pleasures are delivered just when you least expect. And I'm not even talking about watching the film. The poster itself is good enough for me.