I’m so glad to help out a little bit and meet a few photographers I’ve worked with in this beautiful city.
“As all the heavens were a bell,
And Being but an ear,
And I and silence some strange race,
Wrecked, solitary, here.”
I Felt a Funeral in My Brain – Emily Dickinson
Someone said that the most fun things in life are either immoral, illegal or they make you fat.
There are a few rules of social conduct once you enter the Catacombs of Paris: Don’t reveal to anyone the point from where you got in and the point from where you’ll get out, use pseudonyms, always greet and be kind to strangers, don’t leave anything behind you, don’t steal anything, don’t keep walking if you get lost, don’t trust anyone. Self-control.
Cross my heart and hope to die.
Some, may argue the importance of respecting the dead. But why should that be an issue? Some, don’t even argue the importance of respecting the living.
Jump in the manhole! Clip-clap and…hello darkness my old friend…
On three levels, there are around 300km of underground tunnels ahead of us.
Front torch, boots and a backpack full of food and booze.
We’re dipped in water. It almost reaches my thoughts. Our guide says that all the “tourists” (new-comers) must pass through the water tunnel, in order to be baptised. The water is apparently so clean and pure that washes you off of any past-life sin. I doubt it.
We reach one of the several “lounges” as we stop to catch our breaths. We share a beer, a few words of wisdom and, out of the blue – the overwhelming silence.
Most of the silence we experience in life is tainted. We can hear birds singing, water running in the distance, foggy jazz music from a distant bar, the rustling of trees.
True silence will drive you mad. My mind is so loud, but with time, one can hear nothing but his own organs working. Absolute silence is filled by the sound of your own body. You can hear your breathing, your heart beating, you can hear the blood in your veins. You can hear your pulse, your bones rub against each other, your skin sliding over your muscles. You can hear tendons creak, organs churning…and that’s usually about the point where people start hearing things that aren’t really there, I guess. I heard that astronauts are trained to cope with the complete lack of sound they can experience.
But that’s not my case although I’d like to live it. In fact, I am sharing the silence with my companions. F. said she could hear my heart beating, but thanks to that magnificent silence, we could really hear each other talking. Every single word had importance. Every single voice was transcendental. Sound in silence, eyeless bound.
As we found our way round the labyrinthine system, it occurred to me that I am in an underground art gallery. Murals, scale model castles, carved gargoyles, mosaics, sculptures, art installations and the like.
Most of the lounges have a theme, but that’s not about it. This is a city under construction, or the remains of a lost empire.
Alright kids, it’s show-time! The cinema lounge has murals representing notorious films such as Pulp Fiction, Ghost Busters, Taxi Driver, Titanic and Metropolis. Stones are placed to create an amphitheater. Fasten your seat-belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!
There’s also a Flower room, if you feel like cutting your veins and sleeping forever next to Ophelia, but before committing suicide, you could reconsider your final act while having a drink with your mate at the Foxy Bar. Why not clear your ideas at The Beach lounge, before you write a wonderful suicide note in The Lampshade room? But even better, why not kill someone else in The Candelabra lounge instead?
We sit down for a break and to my big surprise, our guide opens his Mary Poppins magic bag, makes up a little fire and serves us fondue and wine, along with some pretty table decorations. As we dine with the dead to the sound of blues, I can’t stop smiling.
It’s strange to think that there’s a city upon us dancing Saturday Night Fever, oblivious of what’s under their heels.
When I wake up, I’ll be different.
We already reached the 3rd level. A throne made out of human bones stands still and proud. The Kingdom of the Dead holds no grudge. There’s no reason to be afraid of death if you’ve lived fully. Life is much scarier.
The truth about forever is that….whatever. I smoked too much Mary Jane. I am not going to shock you all with a last-minute discovery, but being surrounded by all those human bones makes me wonder – what makes us alive?
Desire. Desire makes a person move, create and destroy. Desire makes a person kill.
People are killers and all men are cannibals; I think as I enter a cul-de-sac corridor infested by skeletons.
All men are cannibals. I think as I have another puff.
Men eat men every day. Sometimes physically, other times emotionally. Men eat men by means of power. Men eat men’s dignity. Men eat men’s love.
Even the Sun gets smaller and smaller as the planets around it eat its energy. The Moon gets larger and larger as it eats men’s energy on Earth.
Men eat Earth. Earth eats men. Men eat men.
Enough with my foggy reverie.
We’re on our way out through the utility tunnels, climbing on an endless metal ladder, finally popping our heads out the manhole, in the sun rising street, like groundhogs.
I no longer will scratch the surface of life.
When I wake up, I’ll be different.
Bending and crawling, crawling and bending. Water. Bending. More water. Mind the head. This is my happiest memory: the six of us stumbling under Paris on the sound of communist songs.
When I wake up, I’ll be different.
(Special thanks to all my comrades and especially to our guide, for making this trip to Hell eternal in my heart)
Check out my latest pictures By Sébastien Dardare
In the middle of the journey of my life…
I was torn between two choices:
1. Watch a depressing Tarkovsky movie at cinema Reflet Medicis
2. Drink wine and smoke shisha at Passy (the best spot to get drunk in front of the sizzling Eiffel Tower)
After two cups of coffee and three cigarettes, I chose number 2. After all, Tarko will still be there tomorrow, “but I’m human and I need to be loved”.
Wine. Shisha. Last metro. Direction home.
As I’m about to get back home, I see one of the many transsexual prostitutes populating my neighbourhood: in the middle of the street, tits on air, screaming and throwing empty bottles around. Amusing. I think “ahh! Such fresh air! Life”.
It looks amazing to me, to witness such freedom, such messy, fucked-up beauty. It might be that I’m still culturally shocked from my last trip in Russia, where everything was grand and perfectly preserved, but it almost seemed like communism has never ended. It lacked of humanity. It lacked of vices, dirt and misbehaviour. I love misbehaviour.
It’s not over. I come back home and I soon discover my neighbour singing like crazy, headphones on, putting a show in front of the mirror. Little does she know that she has an audience. Me.
I love Paris at 03.03 am.
Just posed naked, wrapped up in white sheets as suspended into the void for British painter and sax player Andrew Kinsman. Feeling a little bit like a muse.
I’m fond of first times.
Looking forward to see the result.
Summer: most people are fainting under white and blue umbrellas on the beach, worshipping the sun and all the frivolity that comes with it.
Paris: Dali’s melting clock. An open-air oven, more than Sylvia Plath could ever dream of.
I’m fed-up of wearing ugly Birkenstocks and drink naturally mulled wine. The darkness of cinema, seems to be my only comfort, a spark of civilisation.
So, I just completely spontaneously booked a one week solo trip to Saint-Petersburg, Russia.
It might sound random to you, but an actress needs to draw inspiration from somewhere, sometimes.
(The picture above represents myself as zombie Anna Karenina back among the living to find her long lost love Count Alexis Kirillovich Vrosky)
I’ll stay away from train stations, maybe.
Check my latest pictures at J-F Chassaing
“He said that life boils down to standing in line to get shit dropped on your head. Everyone’s got a place in the queue, you can’t get out of it, and just when you start to congratulate yourself on surviving your dose of shit, you discover that the line is actually circular.” – Scott Lynch, The Republic of Thieves
It was last Saturday, when I discovered that someone broke into my apartment.
It was one of these days when you don’t feel like seeing anyone, but still, you can’t be left alone and coffee is never enough.
I ended up engaging in my favourite activity, going to the movies. I met a friend even though I didn’t have much to say. Soon enough we entered the cinema and watched “Swept Away” aka “Travolti da un insolito destino nell’azzurro mare d’agosto” (the original 1974 version by director Lina Wertmüller), curiously enough the main character is a spoiled rich woman who ends up in a deserted island with her attendant, only to find out the material world to which she was so attached meant nothing after all.
Still feeling dull inside, all I could think about on my way home, was to put on my cherry printed socks on, even if it was warm outside, and persevere in my film addiction. Celine Dion used to sing “all by myself, don’t wanna live”. For some reason I always thought she was saying “all by myself, I wanna be”, maybe because the latter was more appealing to me.
As I opened the door, I found absolutely everything I own scattered on the floor. As soon as I realised that it wasn’t an hallucination, I burst into tears, violent tears of angst (I was in the same time, like a complete psychopath, trying to save that magnificent rage in my emotional data bank, in order to reproduce it on the stage).
The next door neighbours rushed in to check up on me; the tumultuous love-making couple of the building. They are so sonorous that they even distorted my dreams, as most of them are now set in a 17th century brothel. They introduced themselves as brother and sister, as if I wasn’t disturbed enough, and of course, that revelation made me cry even more.
The next day, traumatised by the current events, I jumped on a night train back to my dad’s home in Milan. Sometimes, all a girl needs is a few whiskeys on the rocks and a familiar place where to safely pass out.
As bizarre as it may seem, all the heartbreaks and disappointments I have experienced lately, are suddenly a long distance memory. Logically, keeping in mind the subdominant law, the latest incident has automatically erased the others.
I remember a “Laurel and Hardy” episode in which Hardy, was moaning about his limping left leg and how much he was suffering because of it. Laurel looks around for a moment, scratches his head and says: “I have the solution for your limping left leg”. He suddenly kicks his friend’s right leg. “Voilà!”. Hardy screams out in pain, steam comes out of his ears… The sky is still clear, the kids keep playing in the street. Hardy moans about his right leg.
C’est la vie.
It is highly advisable to never show up for a photoshoot hangover and sleepless. I didn’t even do it on purpose, it just happened. A camera shot like a gun fire, eaten alive by the blinding lights. As a result, I’m sleeping in most pictures.
I don’t know why I find myself in these sort of situations. Sometimes I wonder if instead of being because of a lack of maturity, it is just a way to fight the dullness of life. A way to have a funny story to tell in front of a cup of coffee, maybe. A dislike on doing things by the book, a way to make things memorable.
I drink too much, I smoke too much, I girl around too much, I everything too much.
“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” Albert Camus
(Photo credit: Jean F Chassaing)
Friday morning: I find myself in this sweet studio apartment full of books and music in the air…. Little did I know, it was just the beginning of a long week-end of perdition. I leave the house at around 9am. I meet my good friend Maud as we decide to start drinking in a little square near her home. By the end of the afternoon, we ended up with a massive bouquet of flowers (they gave us a rose for each beer we bought at the convenient shop as a memento of mother’s day). That’s how much we drunk, my dear friend! We’re everything but two English roses.
I kiss her on the cheek, as I run into the metro to get to a house party where we’ve danced on 70s music, had a so must midnight Italian pasta and doodled up the face of a guy who was sleeping so deeply he couldn’t notice. He was extremely odd, resting on a typical vampire position. Crossed arms and a face white as a sheet. It is absolutely rejuvenating, getting that stupid. Stewart and I then had a tour of the Parisian suburb (while waiting for the first morning metro) pretending to be Chinese tourists, we photographed almost everything and joked about the architectural grandiosity of this little insignificant town.
I love Paris at 5 am.
Saturday morning: I got finally back home, just to have a few hours of sleep to reach my friends at an open air music festival, where the music was mediocre but the company was good (except for the rock n’ roll Arabic duo). Another drink at the Sully, and it’s already time to catch the last metro. That typical Saturday night metro, the one when you’re single and drunk, it becomes and audition room where all the guys are untalented actors and I an intransigent casting director.
Sunday evening: I realise I’m still a teenager, as in the way I’m living my life, and I don’t mind it, for the moment. Most importantly, I contemplate the idea of “coincidence”, or better, as coined by Carl Yung “synchronicity”. In a way, my life has always been filled by messages from the universe, signs, meaningful casual events but recently it’s getting quite serious. “When coincidences pile up in this way, one cannot help being impressed by them – for the greater the number of terms in such a series, or the more unusual its character, the more improbable it becomes.”
And just like that, I breath in the electric night.
Monday 01:23 am: Finally back in my studio from what was an eventful week.
Sometimes I do feel like I’m 100 years old; that’s due to my crescendo ability to continuously attract events and situations, of any sort, that lead me to notable case scenarios. After all, situations make stories.
“She always wanted to be a story”, that’s what a scriptwriter friend wrote about my alter-ego in one of his shorts; we hear the “cowboys’ death bell” as she was reciting a verse from Sylvia Plath’s Complete Poetry Anthology, she leans to kiss her lover but they accidentally pull on something, a rope. Swish as nooses ride up their necks strangling them to death. The whole thing comes actually from a dream.
Gaze up to the sky. Cigarette. Dramatic look. City lights. Metro. Line 9. Line 13. Dramatic look. Just because…
I ask myself why I can’t keep my thoughts straight.
I write as bad as I think.
But then, there is CINEMA. It’s a very pleasant way to waste your life.