original script written and portrayed by MELVIL POUPAUD
photographed by CARTER SMITH
styled by ROBERT RABENSTEINER
An anonymous script arrived in the mail this morning. The story of a man who is investigating a mysterious death that occurred in Paris long ago, on the night of January 26, 1855, to be precise. There was no name on the cover of the script. Just the title “The Night Will Be Black and White.”
#14 — exterior / day — rue Saint-Martin
A man is walking down a Paris street, peering up at the street numbers. He opens
a small notebook with a bright green cover, checking something: clearly what is written does not match where he is standing. So he lingers in front of 96 rue Saint- Martin until a man leaves the building. He catches the door before it closes and slips inside.
#15 — interior / day — building foyer
In the deserted, dark hallway, the man looks for the gardienne’s apartment door. Then he hears a noise out in the courtyard and goes to look: a little old lady is busily sweeping the courtyard.
— Excuse me ma’am, is this number 96?
— Yes. Who are you looking for?
— A Monsieur Labrunie, but he lived here a long
— How long ago?
— A long, long time ago.
— Well — I’m old, but not so old I don’t remember.
Look, a few years ago they changed around all the street numbers; they were doing construction. They said it was for a cable, which in my opinion was only good for hanging yourself after all the horrible bugs they left behind. So, before then we were at number 24 rue Saint-Martin, meaning that the old number 96 is now probably located at…
— 168. Thank you, and goodnight!
And he was gone. The old lady doesn’t even get to wish him a good night. She goes back to sweeping, muttering:
— Pfff! Another lunatic…
#24 — evening — allée des Brouillards
Standing in the alley, the man looks for a long time at the tall building surrounded by trees. He is just standing there, holding his green notebook, like a statue,
or perhaps a scarecrow, lost in thought.
One day, in the garden of the Palais-Royal, Gérard was seen with a live lobster
in tow at the end of a blue ribbon. The story circulated around Paris and, since his friends were shocked, he responded: “How is a lobster more ridiculous than a dog, than a cat, than a gazelle, than a lion, or any other beast one makes follow them around? I have a taste for lobsters, which are quiet, serious, know the secrets
of the sea…”
From La vie anecdotique by Guillaume Apollinaire
#32 — INTERIOR / EVENING — dressing room
The man knocks at a door with a little sign on it: Jenny Colon. A voice asks him to come in. Sitting in front of a large mirror, an actress is putting on her make-up. The man just stands there uncomfortably, holding his green notebook pressed to his chest.
— Don’t just stand there, please sit down. You’re not here to ask me for an
autograph, am I right?
— Uh, no … Well, yes, I mean — uh…
— Do you always stutter like that when you’re talking to people?
— I — well, I’m not used to meeting actresses, I’m sorry.
— What is it you want?
— I was told you’d found a packet of letters, which interests me greatly.
— Oh that’s so long ago — no one is interested in that stuff any more.
— We’ll see about that. Tell me, how did you find them?
— I was having my dressing room renovated — and there they were, hidden behind a piece of furniture. They must have been there for years.
— Did you read them?
— No, well … Just one … It was so sad.
— What was it about?
— She wrote to him to not come any more, to not try to see her. Apparently he’d threatened suicide. She was very afraid of him, I think…
She stops, overcome with emotion. The man smiles at her. She notices this.
— You don’t think it really was a suicide?
— Did you know that when he was found hanging from that grating, the night of January 26, he was still wearing his hat?
— Well, he was a man who knew how to take care of his things…
They smile at each other. Then she reaches into a drawer in her dressing table, pulls out a thick packet of letters, and hands it to him.
— Thank you.
Silence. Then she turns away, leaning toward her mirror as she returns to putting
on her make-up:
— Leave me now, I must finish this. The play is about to start.
#33 — interior / evening — backstage at the theater
The man is wandering around the old theater.
We can hear the actors talking. They are performing Sarah, a play by Albert Grisar. The man is now standing in the wings watching the performance, following the actress with his eyes as she moves around the stage.
The camera zooms in on the man’s face. He is fascinated by the beauty of the actress and absorbed by the action onstage.
“Do not wait up for me this evening, for the night will be black and white.”
Gérard de Nerval
To be continued…
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