We drive at the whim of Martinique's winding secondary roads.
On the south coast, we decided to take a detour and take a look at a fishing village called Sainte-Luce.
The day remained gray, almost rainy. When we came across the bay, we noticed that the cheerful paintings of the fishing boats and the crowded warehouses in the village lent it an unexpected vivacity.
It is kind to Gérard Pierre to see us waiting at a terraced viewpoint, with the car half-open in the vicinity. With nothing else to do, the native leaves the solitary refuge of his Mercedes 190D and approaches us. “Are they also having mechanical problems? Me, I've only used this one for a while now to sit and rest. I have to go to the garage but they ask me for 50 euros in advance… with my reform, I won't make it anytime soon.”
We asked him what he was doing. He tells us that he had recently stopped working on electrical installations. A few moments are enough for us to realize how difficult it was for him to forget about his more distant film-phile past. “I projected the greatest actors of the world there in Rivière Pilote's room.
Gerárd Pierre: from Unknown to Encyclopedia of Cinema
If Jacques Conrad – we found out later that he was a wealthy businessman originally from the neighboring island of Guadeloupe – had not turned it into a miserable car park, he probably still did.
You can't imagine the amount of movies I spent there. I know almost everyone's songs by heart, and I still remember many of the dialogues,” he vents with disgust, and then articulates countless French names from the classics shown there, also from his protagonists.
Conversation starts, Gérard also summarizes the evolution of the square screen era, from black-and-white films with live sound to the panoramic Technicolor that he used in abundance while remaining active.
Soon, it returns to sequencing more French titles from pirated movies but also from westerns, of novels, feature films of war and espionage, of comedies and dramas, with or without sequels: “La Filibustière des Antilles” (“The Queen of the Pirates”), “Simbad, Le Marin” (“Simbad the Sailor), “Le Massacre de Fort Apache” (“Fort Apache”), “L'Homme des Vallées Perdues” (“Shane”).
And so on. The list is as mechanical and melancholy as it is endless.
Every time we ask him something, Gérard is eager to get back to the list of films. For recovering some of its protagonists and moments. we dare once more to break the gap.
An Inexhaustible Testimony of the Classical Age of Cinema
On one of these rare occasions, Gérard tells us that he worked in three sessions: at noon, at 6 pm and at 9 pm. “even so, the rooms were always full and not exactly silent”.
Take the opportunity to laugh at the chaotic old days of your cinema. And it continues to bring it to mind, guided by the questions we put to it.
“People not only talked but applauded the most exciting scenes in the movies. It was really excited. They bought Coke and drank it with peanuts and pistachios served in paper straws. Alcohol was prohibited. When the session ended, the floor was almost always filthy. We needed to clean everything over and over.”
Once the new reconstruction of his pleasant past is completed, the splendor of “Le Train Sifflerá Trois Fois” (“The Train Whistled Three Times”), an epic, invades the former projectionist's mind. Western with Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly.
The song in this cowboy feature film had always moved Gérard. And it's with pleasure, obvious flaws in tone and over the Martinique emission of your car radio that we intones “Si tois also you m'abandonnes”, the Francophone theme of the credits.
The letter refreshes his memory once more. As soon as he finishes singing, he repeats the introductory motto that “at that time there were so many movies”. He then recovers “Rio Bravo” with John Wayne and a few more Hollywood hits with the duo Lone Ranger and Tonto, among others.
The Longing for Projections and Old Hollywood Hits
We asked him if he followed the most modern movies. Gérard almost steps out the window of the old Mercedes. “If you really want to know, since I stopped working and the old theaters disappeared, cinema has stopped telling me anything.
Fortunately, two of my companions will arrive in the meantime from the Metropolis. They told me that they had videotaped all these films that I used to be here. They will visit me one of these days. We will pass."
This perspective also serves as a pretext for a few more minutes of listing the titles he expected to receive from his friends and review. It only ceases when we question him about his post-projectionist activity as an electrician.
The sun peeks through the clouds for the first time since dawn. We need to put an end to conviviality to give photographic attention to the colorful bay of Sainte-Luce, nothing to do with the island of Saint Lucia, neighboring the south of Martinique.
When faced with the imminent farewell, Gérard reacts and resumes his cinematographic spiel.
We find it difficult to abandon him to the caring and nostalgic solitude he seemed destined for.
Instead, we told him that, in Portugal, we still watched these older classics from time to time, at the Lisbon Cinemateca, but that it was not very frequent because of the profusion of new films that we now have access to, even to the indian rival bollywood.
And the very old TV overlay, of course.
Discovering Sainte Luce of Our Days
We appreciate your kindness and leave you with a genuine goodbye. We didn't expect to linger long on the humble outskirts of the village below, or for Gérard to leave there so soon.
In the main bay of Sainte-Luce, we wandered along the seafront between stalls at a closed fish market, or the mini-bars that sold rum planteur and other of the most popular Martiniquean specialties.
Onwards, inside an uncharacteristic café, three or four residents are watching a television interview with the always pompous president of the time, Nicholas Sarkozy.
We observe through the window a little of the emission. And also the reactions of those Antillean clients to their latest demagogues.
We soon abandoned politics.
Nearby, we walked around a shed painted yellow and red, also decorated with a cheeky sticker of a drink that was promoted in the region as sexually stimulating, “Bamboo”.
In the sun-worn ad, a Caribbean woman in a bikini was holding a green cane of the plant.
On the other side of the structure, Louisy Belina, native mother, plays with Ayleen, her real daughter and the doll-daughter playing her little one. We stopped for a few minutes to chat with the two of them.
Without expecting it, before we leave Sainte-Luce we are still gifted with an image worthy of the seventh Art.
Sheltered in the privacy of a deserted and unpretentious esplanade, nestled beneath sloping coconut palms and other tropical canopies, a couple discuss and exchange pacifying caresses as the Caribbean Sea gently moves in and out over the volcanic sand and almost pats their feet.
We return to the car, wanting to describe it to Gérard, to ask him if he would find it worthy of designing.
Contrary to what we expected, when we went up to the viewpoint where we had lived with him, the Mercedes 190D remained in the same place. Gérard had left the scene.