On Serendipity (Meeting Pedro Almodovar)

By July 16, 2010 May 14th, 2013 Cinephilia, I Heart Films

The following is a post from the archives of my former blog Girl with a Movie Camera. Date of the original posting: Sunday, April 9th, 2006 – with an addendum at the end.

image source: Wikipedia

I wasn’t supposed to be there. On Rue St. Honoré, at around 2, Wednesday afternoon. First of all, I should have gone to school. Wednesday morning should have been the second day of my second session of French classes. Because, since moving to Paris, I’ve always been in school in the mornings. But Tuesday, yet again, I was bored to tears in this new class, feeling like a high school student in kindergarten. Indeed, my progress in French has been prodigious. Two weeks ago, I could barely mumble “Bonjour” and “Madame.” But, after daily perusings of Le Monde, Liberation, and Cahiers du Cinéma and late night cramming sessions on advanced grammar books, I have massively improved. So much that this week I would have French-only conversations on the phone with apartment owners, scheduling visits, in search of a place to live. So, to make a long story short, I spoke to my new French teacher and she suggested that I skip grammar altogether and take an oral test to gain access into the French conversation course. Donc, I immediately met with a professor and, I’m not yet sure how I worked my way into it, I was signed up on the spot for the conversation class without taking the test. The prof said I didn’t need it. But, the conversation class being all booked up for this fortnight, I could only register for the one starting April 18. Hence no school for the next two weeks. Hence I was free Wednesday morning.

So off I went with my Powerbook to a lovely cafe/restaurant near the Opéra. It has become my favorite place to work because of the lovely minimalist decor, the veggie/organic menu, a no smoking policy, free wifi, electric outlets for my Powerbook, and an ultra sweet staff. I can spend hours there. Well, Wednesday I went there earlier than usual, at around lunchtime, and the place was full. I sat down at a small table with four chairs by the entrance and went about working, answering emails for about forty-five minutes. But patrons kept pouring in. And I felt mildly guilty, sitting there with an empty cappuccino cup by my side, while other people were looking for a seat, intending to splurge on expensive lunches. So I left uncharacteristically early. I was supposed to go home, but decided instead to go to the Bar à Eau (Water Bar) downstairs at Colette‘s on Rue St. Honoré because I had seen a “Wifi” symbol when I was there with my friend O. last Saturday.

So, off I went down Rue de l’Opéra, sort of guessing how to find my way to Rue St. Honoré. And indeed, about five minutes later, I was at Colette‘s. I did a lap around the store, stopping for a minute to admire super cute Panda teddy bears and Holga cameras. Then I walked down to the bar. Again, completely full of people having lunch. And thus, off I went up the stairs again.

I was negotiating my way out of Colette’s, when something at the entrance, by the book table, made me freeze.

Make that “somebody.”

Make that Pedro Almodovar.

My legs literally froze. I didn’t know what to do.

So I just pretended to look at books by his side, while trying to regain some composure; my brain was all in a mush. I immediately remembered that indeed, the Cinémathèque has organized a retrospective of all his works, starting this month; there are signs advertising it all over Paris. I was debating whether or not to bother Pedro. On the one hand, he has been one of my formative directors, I have seen almost all of his films and have learned a great deal from them. On the other, I hate when people bother celebrities. And there are not that many intelligent/original things you can say, really. How many times he must have heard “I really admire your work.” But I adoooooooooooore Pedro and would have certainly regretted not talking to him. Possibly throughout the next two decades. So off I went.

He’s soooooooo sweet and charming and warm. We shook hands, I complimented him over getting a retrospective at the Cinémathèque and he thanked me, smiling broadly. The funny thing is that I started off in a blend of Italian/Spanish but upon registering a quizzical look on his face (we were in Paris after all) I simply switched to English. I also asked him if he were to make any appearances at the Cinémathèque and he essentially explained me the whole program. So sweet! I didn’t want to bother him too much, so after yet another cliche (“you are one of my favorite directors, i love your work” sort of thing to which he yet again smiled broadly) off I went.

About five minutes later, when I found myself wandering in a stupor down Rue de Rivoli, I immediately regretted not knowing how to say in Spanish “What does one have to do to work for you for free?” But indeed, too many languages for me to master. I spent the rest of the day in a terribly wired state. It was only about 6 hours later, after a glass of Bailey’s and a sake over dinner with my friend G., that I finally calmed down a little, shrugging off an intense bout of ADD.

But the Almodovar meeting was just about priceless. I mean, over the last couple of years, I have met/briefly chatted with a bunch of directors I looooove (Ermanno Olmi and Gus Van Sant in primis) but it is a completely different deal when you just unexpectedly bump into one of them in the street. Awwwwwwwwwww.

Addendum – from today, July 16th 2010

I’m super happy that back in the day I had written about this fortuitous encounter with Pedro Almodovar. Four years later, I could have hardly remembered all those details – about how he was sweet and patiently explained the entire program of the Cinémathèque to this star-struck girl. The ironic thing about the encounter is the most vivid memory that I have of it – something that I had originally left out of this account.

See, Pedro Almodovar was at Colette’s with a male friend, who was standing right behind him during our exchange. When I uttered the phrase “You’re one of my favorite directors” Pedro’s friend snickered loudly and said to himself – making sure I heard – “One of?!?” I immediately registered the faux pas but I remember not caring, thinking to myself, “Well, Bergman and Antonioni are still alive, it would be quite disrespectful to them! EH!” (I’m like that, I can’t lie, not even to Pedro Almodovar’s face. Brownnosing is an art lost to me). Pedro’s friend kept his eyes fixed on me with an expression of disgust and off I went, merrily walking down the street.

Speaking of the two giants – Bergman and Antonioni – they died not even 24 hours apart on July 30th 2007. I still remember that day as if it were yesterday. Must plan an Antonioni-Bergman film marathon for the end of this month. They are sorely missed.