Footbridge over the Seine

As the credits run we see a middle-aged man, Stefan, reasonably good-looking without being handsome, rummaging through canvases in his small flat cum studio. He pulls out a canvas and holds it at arm’s length, examining it quizzically. It represents a slim young girl posing nude on a divan with one hand behind her head. The painting is unfinished, in particular the background is not yet filled in.

We hear for the first time a theme which comes up at moments throughout the film : it is taken from the overture to Verdi’s little known opera, Attila.

Back to a group of students in the Beaux-Arts who are sketching the model in the painting. Stefan, twenty years younger, is one of the group working on the painting we have just seen.

Stefan looks up at the clock and says something which we do not hear. The students pack up and go off. Stefan remains to rearrange chairs and tables as if he is responsible for the class, though he does not look old enough to be a full-time teacher. The model continues to lie there lazily without making any attempt to get dressed. He notices this and she glances up at him  provocatively. He looks away, embarrassed. Irritated, the girl grabs a counterpane, throws it around herself and stalks out to get dressed.

During this time we hear the first two verses of “The Fugitive” (Lyrics and Melody Sebastian Hayes) in the background

I never planned this mission
Where I stay I never know ;
For I let the movement send me
Wherever it wants me to go.

So if the Germans ask you
Have you seen me passing by,

Tell them you never knew me,
Tell them it was not I.

No sign will mark my passing,
No tomb will bear my name,
But I’ll not be forgotten
When I go back to where I came,
When I go back to where I came.

EXT.   PONT DES ARTS  PARIS   1962   MORNING

Bridge over the Seine
Mist which clears gradually. Workers in blue denims cross the bridge, one or two better dressed office workers, maids with baguettes de pain. STEFAN, a man of about fifty wearing a floppy trilby and casual wear, carrying an easel and painting equipment walks halfway across the bridge (which is pedestrian only) and sets up his easel. The canvas is covered by a sheet of paper so we do not see the painting at first. In the background a Juliette Greco or Lucienne Delyle song of the era, very quiet. The man is Stefan.

Stefan on bridge

He lifts the protective wrapping from the canvas we see that it is a half-finished nude executed in the style of Modigliani; The slim model is stretched out on her back with her left hand behind her head, she has black hair and a mischievous expression. The painter sketches rapidly the background for the picture, namely what he sees in front of him —  the rest of the Pont des Arts and the Louvre : this is an imagined backdrop for the nude which has obviously been painted previously in a studio.

A group of noisy students, some carrying musical instruments arrive from the left (the camera side) and one of them flops down on a metal bench on the bridge slightly in front and to the right of the painter. The girl, JOSETTE, is in her early twenties, she is  wearing  expensive high heeled shoes but  is wrapped up in a somewhat shabby red coat. She is slim and has delicate features,  but there is something feverish about her appearance, half drunkenness, half fatigue. She closes her eyes

Boy. Coming, Josette ?

Josette. No.

Boy. Ok, please yourself.

Josette. (Slightly drunken tone) Yes, yes.

(She waves her hand and the students disappear towards the Right Bank. Josette stretches out on the bench exhausted. The painter, whom we see only from the back or the side, looks at her with interest and sets up his easel so that he can get a better view in order to use her as a model. His glance goes from the girl on the bench to the canvas and back to the girl. He gives a few touches to the painting.

The girl wakes up with a start and looks around.)

Josette. You painting me ?

Stefan. Well, not exactly.  In a way.

Josette. I pose for students  in the Beaux Arts sometimes.

Stefan. Do you ?

(Carries on painting.)

Josette. Yes.  (Pause) They pay me though.

Stefan. How much ?

Josette. I charge…..  fifty francs for a half hour.

(To her amazement the painter takes out some notes and hands them to her. She looks at them and him trying to make him out, then stuffs them hastily into a pocket of her coat.)

Josette. Is the pose all right ?

Stefan. Just move your right leg a little. Yes. Now put your  left arm behind your head and look up at the sky. Yes, that’s better.

(Pause.)

Josette. Say something, I’m getting bored.

Stefan. I’ve more or less finished for today actually.

(Josette jumps up and comes round to look at the painting.)

Josette. But that’s not me !

Stefan. (A bit embarrassed) No.

Josette. She does look a bit like me, it’s true.  Who was she ?

Stefan. Oh, just a model at the Beaux-Arts.

Josette. But all this time you’ve just been doing the background ! What is this ?

Stefan. I did do something to the arm. But, yes, I did the figure years ago.

Josette. Anyway, it’s a crap painting.

(The painter smiles weakly, not taking offence.)

Josette. In fact it’s so bad I’m going to throw it in the Seine.

(Josette picks up the painting. The painter makes no attempt to stop her. She pulls her arm back as if about to hurl the painting into the water, but thinks better of it and eventually replaces it on the easel. She turns to face him.)

Josette. I’ll let you off this time. (Indicating the painting) Actually, it’s maybe sort of got something nonetheless. (Slight pause.) But it’s still a crap painting.

(Josette takes the notes out of her pocket, screws them tightly into a ball and tosses it at the painting.)

Keep your money.

(She stalks off.)

Man. Hey!

(Josette stops at once and turns.)

Man. (While packing up his easel and preparing to go off) Have breakfast on me at least.

(He puts a few coins down on the bench.

He walks off without turning round, taking his equipment with him. Josette stares after him with a puzzled air.)

INT CAFÉ NOT FAR FROM THE PRÉFECTURE DE PARIS   MORNING

(Josette is sitting at a table in a café drinking coffee and eating croissants. A few old workers at the bar pay no attention to her, but a young man at a nearby table tries to make conversation. She frowns and looks away.

Groups of police are milling around outside, talking amongst themselves or on walkie-talkie. Police vans pass incessantly. The radio at the bar gives out the 10 o’clock news. Josette looks up at once and listens attentively.)

RADIO ANNOUNCER In the Algerian capital French Algerian protesters have thrown up barricades in the streets and seized certain government buildings. The police have opened fire on the rioters and there is at this very moment intense fighting around Boulevard Laferrière. General de Gaulle has called on all members of the police and military to remain faithful to the Republic and has denounced the parachute regiment commander, Stefan Lagaillarde, as the instigator of this movement whose aim is clearly to sabotage the recent peace agreements.

(Josette gets up suddenly, pays at the counter and rushes out.)

EXT. PONT DES ARTS 1962 – MORNING

La Passerelle des Arts

A few days later. Same scene as before a little later in the morning. Stefan has his easel set up in the same place. His back is towards us and we do not see the canvas.
Josette arrives from the left bank side of the bridge, so Stefan does not see her arriving. She is in slightly better shape though she wears the same threadbare coat. She surveys Stefan for a while, then flops down on the same bench, deliberately taking up the same pose. She looks up provocatively in a way slightly reminiscent of the model.
Stefan pretends not to notice her. Silence. After a bit both smile despite themselves. Josette throws off her coat and gets up to have a look at the painting. The centre of the painting is blank, Stefan is roughing in the Louvre and the Pont des Arts as a background in pastel.

JOSETTE (Shocked) What happened to the model?

Stefan carries on painting.

STEFAN Dead.
JOSETTE What do you mean, dead?
STEFAN I decided I didn’t need her any more. So I threw the painting into the Seine.
JOSETTE (Genuinely perturbed) No, no, you couldn’t have done that.
STEFAN Why not?
JOSETTE You just couldn’t.

Stefan keeps on painting, smiling to himself slightly.

STEFAN It’s all right. The original’s in my studio.
JOSETTE I’m very glad to hear that.

Slight pause.
Stefan puts his hand in his pocket and pulls out a note which he hands to Josette.

STEFAN Why don’t you go and get some pastries ?
JOSETTE What do I get for you?
STEFAN Oh, pain au chocolat.

Josette walks off slowly down to the other end of the bridge still looking somewhat troubled. The camera follows her.

EXT. PONT DES ARTS – MOMENTS LATER

Stefan and Josette are now sitting on the bench drinking coffee and eating pastries.

JOSETTE So what do you spend the rest of your day doing?  Painting?
STEFAN No. I only do it as a hobby now. I did go to the Beaux-Arts once but I dropped out before getting a diploma.

Slight pause. Josette looks at him, calculating his age.

JOSETTE Why’d you drop out? Because the Germans were after you?
STEFAN No. Nothing as heroic as that.
JOSETTE What, then?
STEFAN Personal reasons.
JOSETTE All very mysterious. (Scrutinising him) You don’t look old enough to be retired. You got money, then?

Stefan laughs.

STEFAN Pots. No. But last year I came into a small inheritance, enough to live on for a year or two.
JOSETTE (Stretching her arms lazily) It’s never too late in the day to start doing nothing. What work did you do  when you were active?
STEFAN Teaching a bit. More recently I worked for a firm translating technical manuals into Polish.
JOSETTE Sounds absolutely ghastly.
STEFAN I quite enjoyed it. You?
JOSETTE Oh, officially I’m enrolled at the Sorbonne. Political Science and Economics.
STEFAN What’s it like?
JOSETTE Complete crap. Everybody’s just interested in money and power in this shitty society — you don’t need to do Science-Po to see that. I don’t get a grant – I only enrolled so I could go to the Student Restaurant. Everybody has to eat.
STEFAN Yes, quite.

Pause. Stefan gets up and begins to pack up his things.

JOSETTE You going already?
STEFAN I’ve got to get back to take some medication.

Josette picks up his easel without being asked.

JOSETTE Here, I’ll carry that. Where’d you live?
STEFAN Not far from here.

EXT. PARIS – MORNING

A typical Parisian street. The 19th century five storey houses have balconies with iron railings.

JOSETTE This it?

Stefan nods. Close up of entrance showing the street number and a column of names with bell pushes. The top one is STEFAN WOZINSKY.

JOSETTE Yes. I’m at the top.

Josette looks at the entrance door again. She dumps the easel on the ground.

JOSETTE See you.

She saunters off without looking back. Stefan pushes a button, pulls open the heavy doors and enters with his equipment.

EXT. CANAL SAINT-MARTIN – AFTERNOON

Stefan without his painting equipment is wandering aimlessly along the Canal Saint Martin. From time to time he exchanges the time of day with old men sitting on benches or playing boules, at one point he goes into a small grocery store to buy some fruit  and then resumes his stroll.
Josette and a group of students, mostly male, emerge from a Métro station and walk along in a group purposively as if going to a meeting. One of them consults a piece of paper. He presses the bell. Looking back idly Josette catches sight of Stefan. She stares  at him curiously. He does not see her. The others go in.

MALE STUDENT You coming, Josette?
JOSETTE Oh, yes.

She follows them in. The heavy double door slams to. We see Stefan continuing to wander  along  the canal bank.

To be continued

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