I'm writing to you from the metro, and will hopefully finish the letter and send it off from my apartment. I'm coming back from Belleville tonight, where I met with a friend. Her name is Maria, she took me tonight to a small, lovely square called St. Marthe's. Do you know it? The Martha and the Marias, as concretely and painfully real as some Velasquez painting. The atmosphere has been festive; on est en finale, les filles!, a young woman was shouting in the metro gleefully. The French made it to the final.
I walked in your steps tonight, the painting on the wall of the African woman carrying her baby wrapped around her back, an almost iconography, opposite the cafe marked by the November attacks, a figure you have photographed and sent to me, she told me so. The cafe was particularly busy, more than others, filled with people with painted flags on their cheeks. Just now two young boys entered the metro with speakers blasting 'celebrate tonight, come on!'.
As Maria and I were walking alongside the Canal St. Martin, talking of the past events, we were struck by an unusual sight. A heterogeneous crowd of people were hosting what seemed like an improvised vigil right under one of the ponts. A woman all dressed in black, wearing a black veil over her head, featured prominently. Next to her, a man of 'Parisian air' and flair was standing, sipping from his glass of red wine. A few young people in their late teens were sitting at the edge of the dark canal. In front of them, in the water, a series of a picture of a man in dark sun glasses, floating, was adorned with pink carnations and candles. Floating candles started to populate the whole upper part of the canal. Maria and I passed through the silent crowd (their mood was 'ambivalent' or αμφίθυμος, ('of two moods'), as my friend commented) and climbed on the bridge so that we could have a better view of the gathering, and try to understand... Was that an homage to the victims of the attacks, tastelessly coinciding with the Euro football match between France and Germany, and even more tastelessly, now converging with cheers and frenzied festivities all over the city? But if that was the case, why was the honored dead only one person, and even, multiplied with some rather over-the-top sensibility? As I was looking around I read out loud, mindlessly, the sign on a building just behind the vigil. Centre culturel iranien. But that's it!, cried Maria. Kiarostami! And only now, that I've reached home, and have googled him, do I realize that indeed, the director appears with dark sunglasses in all of his photos, iconic in a distinct, unpretentious way.
Among the Olive Trees... Gil's favorite movie of Kiarostami's. Something extraordinary. Only Kiarostami and the brothers Taviani have shown the olive trees in all their life-giving splendor.