Saying Goodbye to Annie

In the 1970s a strange woman came into my childhood, a woman shrouded with eroticism and Frenchness and an earthiness that intrigued me. Absorbing the French language with the ease typical of children I soaked up the culture of Luxembourg’s bigger neighbour too. It was a violent world, a world of black and white misogyny and death and hearts shattered in searing pain. It was a world of frank nudity and small, tin can cars that spluttered and farted along wet streets and cobbles, where the air turned blue with the word ‘putain,’ and ‘conard.’ It became my world too. I was of course far too young to absorb the sinister subplots and twists, too young to hear boys and men like me being called “pede,” the ghastly French term for gay; too young to see scenes of rape and domestic violence. But the ‘grande vedette’ of these films, watched on a TV the size of packing crate, in a house from the 1930s, in a land not my own, was Annie Girardot. We left Luxembourg when I was 16 and I forgot Annie. She died without my noticing her passing. Only in recent years, as middle age caught up with me, and my own mortality sharpened in focus did I remember her. I began to watch her films, through adult eyes, an agonising and bitter-sweet infusion of lost times. I began to paint her too. And I will paint her again soon. In November 2016 I travelled to Paris, partly in order to visit her resting place. It was the closer we would ever come to one another. dsc_072529217726506_f15d57385d_z

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