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LC Montage - Train Wreck at Montparnasse 1895

A tabletop, in lamplight: abandoned cigarettes have burned the outline of an ashtray into the varnish. Glasses have left rings.

Drapes open. Daylight floods the tabletop. Dust glows in the daylight. A hand reaches into the frame and splits the dust. An old man’s hand, a left hand, liver-spotted and clean, the fingers are fine-formed and tapering, but the fourth finger is withered and folds to merge with the palm. The other fingers curve to meet around it. Nicotine has cured the fingertips to a chestnut color. This talon withdraws, reappears with a crumpled handkerchief to wipe the tabletop, and withdraws again. From off screen, we hear the handkerchief snap.

 

Fade to black. Silence.

 

The camera pulls back. The old man sits at the table. He wears a white shirt with cuffs turned up. The shirt is not entirely clean. The camera looks past his shoulder to his hands, palms braced against the tabletop. Steadying himself for a moment, he stands and steps away from the table, returning to set down a pyramid of unmatched portfolios. He inspects them, unopened, and pushes them aside, one by one, restacking the pyramid carefully, and setting the stack to the left. He steps away again and returns with a package of black notebooks, water-stained and greasy and worn, bound with a yellowing ribbon. He sits. He unties the ribbon and wraps it around his left hand, taking the roll and pushing it to his left. He inspects the notebooks, their spines and covers, but does not open them. He has done this before, many times. He selects one and piles the rest, pushing them to the left to join the ribbon and the pyramid of portfolios. He centres the chosen notebook on the table.

He leaves the table again, returning this time with a cracked plastic tape recorder. He sits. He arranges the tape recorder next to the book and connects a microphone to it before verifying a tape cassette is in the machine. He picks up the notebook and opens it to the front page. There is nothing there but a scrap of newsprint pasted into the book. It is a numeral ‘1’. He considers it carefully. The fingers of the crippled left hand test the glue, tracing the edge of the pasted number. He sets the book open to page ‘1’ and snaps on the tape recorder. After a moment’s delay, and another, he picks up the microphone and begins to speak.

“The day of the match I sat at rest, as I often did, on a stool, at a distance, waiting, with the camera in my lap, cocked and focused. …”

 

Cut to black. Silence.

BLOCK WHITE TALL

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