Many, many centuries ago,
when the earths climate was very different from what it is today, seasons were
reckoned not from solstice to equinox and equinox to solstice, but from days that
are halfway between them. This is why the times of the solstices are still
called midsummer and midwinter, and why the lunar new year of East Asia, in
late January or early February, is said to celebrate the beginning of spring.
have forgotten this reckoning, and springlike weather in February is called
unseasonable, even in Los Angeles, where February is the time that most
resembles what in the rest of North America, at least above the thirtieth
parallel, is known as spring.
February is, in
Southern California, the time when all kinds of flowering plants from
tropical succulents to Dutch bulbs present their most exuberant bloom. It
sometimes rains, but when it does not, then the weather is so mild that just
about any kind of clothes one wears will feel comfortable. And so people will
put on whatever clothes more for some, less for others they feel will make
them, like the flora around them, look their best.
Just such a variety of
clothing could be seen on the long line of people that, on a sunny February
afternoon, was slowly moving toward the box office of a movie theater on
Hollywood Boulevard. The marquee read ALBERT BOSCHS PALE HORIZON. Among the
people were a couple in late youth or early middle age, depending on the observers
point of view composed of a buxom blonde wearing stiletto heels and a
tight-fitting bright green dress, the hem just above the knees, with a brown
jacket over it, unbuttoned just enough to show a not-too-subtle hint of
cleavage, and a dark-haired, somewhat tanned man in a white turtleneck shirt
and navy-blue slacks. Behind the couple could be seen a glass case containing a
poster for The Sins of the World,
surmounted by an angled sticker reading BEST FOREIGN PICTURE NOMINEE.
People who watch subtitled
movies and dont understand the language of the dialogue, or not much of it,
have varying ways of relating to the subtitles. Some focus most of their
attention on the action on the screen, and divert it to the subtitles only when
absolutely necessary to understand what is going on. Others read the subtitles
as though reading a book in which the screen images are mere illustrations. It
would seem natural that a producer, accustomed to thinking in terms of action
sequences, would belong to the first group, and an actor or actress, in the
habit of learning lines, to the second. So it was with the couple under
observation. By the time Pale Horizon
had rolled to its final sequence, an interior shot of a couple walking away
from a pale predawn horizon and talking to each other while facing the camera,
the man had thoroughly succumbed to an intense tedium while the woman was
trying to make sense of subtitles that read
I shall never forget that pale horizon.
It was the beginning of the world.
By the time they
walked back toward the garage the afternoon had turned into a neon-lit evening.
They did not glance across the street, where another movie theater, of the type
quaintly known as adult, bore a marquee reading GINA GEORGE / IN / THOSE HOLLYWOOD
HILLS. And yet the poster outside the theater, bearing a sticker saying COMING
SOON, showed, below the words Barry
Bergman presents / Gina George and above the title Young Wives Tales, a barely-dressed image of the very same blonde
who was now ignoring it.
Id love to be in
a movie like that, she was saying.
You would? said
her companion, in a surprised tone, as they entered the garage. You?
Yes, me. Why? Do
you think its too subtle for me? Do you think the sex is too sensitive? You
dont think I can do it?
I know you can do
it, sweetheart, and Im looking forward to you doing it tonight...
She interrupted him
with a mock-slap, unable to suppress a smile. As they approached a white
Mercedes convertible, he pointed at it and continued,
... But its not
exactly sensitive sex that got you this. He moved to the passenger door
and waited for her to unlock it with her remote key, which she delayed doing
until she felt composed enough to flash him a movie-star smile. Then they went
out, Gina driving, for the short ride up into the Hollywood Hills.
A few hours later, on a
cold, icy morning in Western Europe, a small sports car could be seen coming
down a winding mountain road, past a waterfall and a slate-roofed village with
a Romanesque church tower, with majestic snow-capped peaks in the background.
This car was also driven by a woman with a man in the passenger seat. Pointing
at the scenery, she said, with an educated London accent,
You mean you would
give this up?
mountains in California too, he replied, his accent that of a continental
European, and they say that you can go skiing an hour away from Los Angeles.
And they have palm trees, and the sea...
Well, I certainly
wont, she said. I cant suddenly start painting surfers.
what-is-his-name, he said after a pause. Hockney.
Im not Hockney,
she said. I respect what he does, but it aint me, babe.
I should hope
not, he said, smiling. He aint my type.
They had come out
of the mountains. The road was now level and its bends were gentle. She was
driving at 120 kilometers an hour. They were silent for a long while.
Ill wait for you
to come back, she suddenly said when she saw the airport exit sign.
What if I dont,
Margaret? he asked.
I shant wait
The next morning in the
Hollywood Hills, with the sun already warm, Gina George could be seen coming
out of the swimming pool behind Barry Bergmans house, wearing a bikini
revealing even more of her body than shown on the poster on Hollywood
Boulevard. The only person that she could be so seen by, however, was Barry
Bergman, and he, wearing shorts and sitting in a lounge chair on the deck, was
absorbed in alternately sipping a drink and reading Daily Variety. When
he heard her flip-flopped footsteps approaching her, he said without looking
Guess whos coming
Give me a hint,
I dont know any
of those, she said as she placed her hand on his back. He set down his drink
and put his free hand on hers.
Albert Bosch, he
For the Oscars?
Yes, but also to
deal hes supposed to direct Back
Has it been cast?
It doesnt say.
Gina pulled away
and sat in a lounge chair facing Barrys, forcing him to look at her. His gaze
moved rhythmically between her breasts and her blue eyes.
Get me an
audition, she demanded.
he said softly as his eyes fixed on hers. That he paused is not what you
Barry, I said, get
me an audition. She rose to approach him again.
might be forgetting something. His eyes followed her movement. Im not your
agent. Im your producer.
produce something for me, besides excuses! What do you mean,
thats not what I
do? Im tired of what I do.
You are? What are
you tired of? The hot steamy sex?
Yeah, that kind.
She knelt beside him and put her hands on his nearer leg. You know I dont get
tired of the real kind. Her hands began to move along his leg, one down the
calf and the other up the thigh. He took her hands in his and they began to
walk toward the house.
After changing planes in
Paris, Albert Bosch spent most of the flight to Los Angeles trying to read the
script of Back Roads that had been
shipped to him by Federal Express several weeks before but that he had not done
more than glance at. It was not, of course, a full shooting script but a
thirty-page treatment, as the Hollywood people had called it.
established as a filmmaker, after some youthful experiments that included
filming a novel that had sold a total of two hundred fifty copies, he had not
directed another writers screenplay. He had, instead, followed his
idiosyncratic method of starting with the barest outline of a story based on
an idea that would come to him from he knew not where, perhaps an unremembered
dream and writing the screenplay in the course of filming. He often let the
actors not only the leads but, especially, the secondary ones write their
own lines, though not improvise. This method and its results had made him
famous but not rich. In spite of several festival awards, every new project
would entail a struggle for financing that would leave him exhausted, and he
was grateful for the opportunity that his relationship with Margaret, now three
years old, gave him to recover his strength in her house in the mountains.
He had never been
much interested in Hollywood, but the Academy Award nomination for The Sins of the World made Hollywood
suddenly interested in him. It was obvious that the script of Back Roads, though not written for him,
had been modified by someone who had taken a crash course in
his œuvre. It
seemed to have been conceived as a kind of postmodern film noir, a genre that
he despised and that his films, to his great annoyance, had sometimes been
compared to. (At press conferences he would sometimes say, Call it film rouge,
film bleu anything but noir.) But on every second or third page of the Back Roads script he could find a verbal
exchange, a shot indication, a cut that seemed to have been lifted from an
Albert Bosch film.
He was tired. He
and Margaret had not slept much the night before, and on the westbound flight
time seemed to be standing still. The only films available to watch were
Hollywood mass productions. Even the food served in the first-class cabin
seemed flat, more like something he had to eat to stave off hunger than a
pleasure. He feared that the Back Roads
project might be like that.
Gina George left Barry
Bergmans house shortly before noon, and came back mid-afternoon. The moment he
saw her walk in, he knew what had happened. He could visualize the two lead
producers for the Back Roads project,
whom he knew well one an older and the other a younger man at lunch in a
Beverly Hills restaurant, with the younger one saying, You know who wants to
audition for Back Roads? Gina
George! And the older one responding She sure has the tits for it. The
younger guy would then say And the ass too, but what kind of image would that
be Albert Boschs first Hollywood film, with a porno queen? And the older
one: I guess well tell her its already been cast.
She could also tell
that he already knew.
So they dont want
me, she began. Shit, Barry, maybe Back
Roads wasnt it, but I want to go legit.
Sounds like a line
out of Guys and Dolls, he said.
Fuck you, Barry!
Im an actress, but not to you...
Sure you are,
honey, to me youre a great actress, but a certain type. A lot of the others
cant do what you do, and I daresay youve done pretty well maybe not
entirely without my help...
interrupted him furiously, maybe thats what you think, but people can change,
and I want to change, and if you dont want to help, then fuck off! And she
began to walk toward the door.
My, my, such
language, he said. She stopped in her tracks, picked up a brass ashtray that
had been sitting, spotlessly clean Barry and his cronies had long since given
up smoking on a teak stand near the door, and threw it wildly in his general
direction. He did not need to duck, and it landed harmlessly on the sofa.
In the limousine that took
them from Los Angeles International Airport to the Beverly Hilton Hotel, an
obviously tired Albert Bosch gamely tried to keep up with the chitchat
proffered by the two producers whom Barry Bergman had earlier imagined. Living
with Margaret had made his English quite fluent, and he was acquainted with
Hollywood lingo from film festivals, but his jet-lagged mind now found it hard
to respond, especially since the subject of Back
Roads had not come up in the conversation at the moment it seemed to be
mostly about various experiences in going through customs. At some point the
producers became aware of their guests fatigue, and silence took over. It was
then that thoughts of Margaret infiltrated his mind.
May I use the car
phone? he asked.
Uhh... here, use
my cell phone, the younger producer said. Albert was about to ask What? when
he remembered reading that this was what Americans called wireless mobile
telephones, a new invention that he had not used yet.
May I call Europe
Sure. Just dial
011, then the country code, and then the rest of it.
Halfway through the
dialing or, rather, key punching Albert Bosch stopped. Its now the middle
of the night there, he said. I think I will call later, when its morning
Margaret liked to begin
painting when the mornings first light came through the windows that she had
put into the barn when she had it made into her studio, along with a fireplace,
electricity and a telephone line. She would feel guilty about her early rising
when Albert was staying with her, since he liked to stay in bed until
mid-morning, but the guilt feeling did not stop her routine. With Albert away,
as he was much of the time, she felt relief from the guilt, and she thought
that the change in feeling might be reflected in a changed painting style,
though she could not consciously specify the difference. And this morning was
no exception. She found herself reaching for colors that she might not have used
the day before; well, not the day before, since that was when she drove Albert
to the airport, but the one before that.
The phone rang. She
picked up the receiver with her left hand; her right hand did not stop
painting. Nor did she say Hello. This was a routine.
I miss you too,
Its coming along
fine, she said.
Yes, I shall, she
said. She hung up, briefly stopped painting to look at the mountain peaks
through her window, and resumed her work with no change in expression.
Albert Bosch had a
difficult time getting to sleep. Several times he got up and turned on the
television, but the quality and the variety of the programming, seemingly half
of it in Spanish are these channels from Mexico? he wondered
bewildered him. But when he finally fell asleep, he slept until ten oclock,
and when he woke up he felt that he was on his natural schedule. He found this
realization to be an encouraging sign. He saw that an orange light on his
telephone was flashing, indicating a message. Of course: the producers,
probably to set up a lunch meeting. He smiled inwardly at the thought that he
would actually be participating in one of those famous Hollywood lunches.
He felt hungry, but
decided that a croissant and coffee was that what Americans called
breakfast? he wondered would tide him over until lunch.
Lunch was in the hotels
restaurant. The producers were joined by a screenwriter not the author of the
original script, Albert Bosch found out, but the one who was adapting it into an
Albert Bosch film.
The food, Albert
Bosch had to admit to himself, was much better than what had been served in
first class on a European airline.
As I told you, he
was saying, I have never directed someone elses script before.
We knew that, the
younger producer said. Its just an adjustment. You can pretend its yours.
Make all the changes you need its in your contract. Look, Paul Verhoeven did
it, and Wolfgang Petersen, and Bille August...
And you can go way
back, the older producer added. Wilder, Preminger, Renoir this town
wouldnt be what it is without you guys from Europe.
casting? Bosch asked after a sip of his beer.
Well, said the
younger producer, thats a sensitive issue. Of course we know that over there
youre free to cast who you want. Here, we have to please the money guys.
Dont worry, Al,
the older producer said, theres plenty of interest. Theres even this, uh,
erotic star named Gina George who was interested, believe it or not. He
Will she be in
it? Bosch asked with a smile.
Are you kidding?
the older producer said with another guffaw. No, well get you a classy cast.
We figure that
except for the leads, the screenwriter said, you can hire some of your
European people, if they want to work here. In fact, some of them already have,
I know, said
Bosch. But I cannot prepare the script, as you call it, without specific
actors in mind. That is how I work.
Well let you know
who the likeliest prospects for the leads are, said the younger producer.
Theyre not over-the-title stars, but theyre bankable, and if you dont know
them, well give you videos of their work. You can then start writing with them
in mind, and if any of them dont work out, youll just change it as needed.
And Ill be there
to help you, the screenwriter said. You can call on me any time, night and
day. It will be a privilege, he added as though to avert any protest on
We got no time to waste,
were the older producers parting words. And so by late afternoon Albert Bosch
was sitting at the desk of his hotel room, rewriting the screenplay. The easy
part was crossing out most of the Albert Bosch touches that the screenwriter
had put in, though there were two or three that he thought were clever.
In his twenties he
had supported himself for a couple of years as a substitute teacher of English
literature in a secondary school, and rewriting someone
rewritten screenplay reminded him of correcting the pretentious essays of
Through the window
he saw the hotels swimming pool. It was empty; it was, after all, only
February. He thought of the view he might have had through the windows of
He picked up the
telephone and mindlessly began to punch keys. He stopped when he realized that
he had forgotten the 011, and began all over.
The bedside phone rang
numerous times before the sound moved from Margarets dream into her
consciousness. When she finally picked up the receiver and drowsily said Hello?
there was no voice on the other line.