lunedì 4 maggio 2015

Monsieur Blanchet

I have a nice story to tell you.
And - wow! - I love to have a beautiful story to share with my readers!
Almost 10 years ago, when I moved to Paris from Italy, and I started to live in Montmartre, I used to go very often on Sunday morning at the Hallé Saint Pierre to have a coffee in their bar and to look at books in their lovely book-shop.
One day, I found by chance in the BD section a book that attracted me for its cover and its style. The title was La Fugue and the auteur a certain Pascal Blanchet, an unknown (to me, until that moment) illustrator from Québec:
La Fugue is the (quite sad) story of a jazz musician: from the joys of youth (full of music and love) until the desperate last days of his life (full of sorrow and solitude). I have to confess that I didn't - and I still don't - know much about BD or graphic novels, and I was the first to be surprised by my discovery that day. I immediately bought the book, mesmerized by the beauty of Pascal's illustrations, by his vintage touch, and by the essential but powerful story he was able to write. Reading it, I somehow thought that the man behind the book would be of a certain age, so when I've found out that Pascal was born in the year 1980, my astonishment was truly great.
At the time of my discovery, Pascal had already published another book, Rapide Blanc (always for the adorable Montréal publishing company Editions de la Pastèque), a book that I ordered on line the next day. When the book arrived, I understood that my "love at first sight" was ready to become a long-lasting relationship:
If possible, I loved Rapide Blanc even more than La Fugue.
Pascal's style is unique and recognizable among thousands: his images, perfectly crafted and permeated of nostalgia, are able to give life to an entire world. His stories, always set in the late '40s - beginning of '50s, talk about people in the past but have a particular resonance on our modern lives, and I can't tell you how beautiful are these people living, loving, dancing on swings, drinking cocktails, moving as silhouettes on sharp backgrounds.
Cinema is not far away from all this, evidently enough, but I think that music has the greatest importance in Pascal's work (and life). It is not by coincidence that at the end of each of his books, you can find a "Discographie": with the name of the singer, the title of the track and of the album is taken from (I never saw a record dated later than 1969, by the way) or the fact that in his biography, on his site, he writes: No music, No nothing.
In 2008, Facebook was just appeared in my life, and I wanted to check if there was a fan page for Pascal. There was not, but Pascal was there, with his personal page, and so I decided to write him a message and ask him to accept my friendship, explaining how much I loved his books.
Pascal immediately accepted, and from that moment on, we started to regularly write to each other. 
I was fascinated by his work and Pascal was fascinated by the fact that I worked for an architect, since architecture and design, together with illustration and music, are his other big passions (and you could clearly see that looking at his work).
One day, to my great, great surprise, Pascal wrote to announce that he made a portrait of me  (!!!) for a series of portraits he was working on. The idea that Pascal made a portrait of me without even ever met me was pretty incredible, but also very cool, especially when he said that he has conceived it as a "Cinema Poster". This was the portrait (with my real name on it):
I was crazy about this portrait and in 2009, when I decided to create my cinema blog, I asked Pascal if I could use it as the opening image of Le Blog de Zazie.
And the rest is history, as you all know...
In the meantime, Pascal wrote a couple of other books: Bologne
and Nocturne
I personally adore this last one: dark as only the darkest souls can be, evocative, desperate, fascinating, a real masterpiece.
In all these years, Pascal and I never had the chance to meet in flesh in blood.
He was in Italy last year to receive in Bologna the prix Ragazzi for Le Noël de Marguerite, a book written by India Desjardins and illustrated by him but I couldn't be there and I had never been to Québec, where Pascal lives, so the chances to see each other were really small.
But a while ago, knowing that I would have been in NY for my job and having a good friend living in Montréal (the adorable Caterina), I decided to stop by for few days and I wrote to Pascal to inform him.
And this is why, in a cold and grey Monday of April 2015, Monsieur Blanchet and Zazie finally met.
What can I say? We spent just few hours together, walking around the Mile End, but we both have the feeling that we were like old friends, talking like we have been doing that for all our lives. 
Pascal took me to an incredible place for lunch: Wilensky, a place established in 1932, that became very famous thanks to Mordecai Richler's book The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (and through the 1974 film version by Ted Kotcheff ). Of course, we had the "Special": a grilled beef salami and beef bologna sandwich with mustard on a toasted roll. Absolutely delicious! And the place...oh, that place!
And this is us, happy to have finally met!
Didn't I tell you that was a wonderful story?

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