A Hollywood film crew have set up camp so close to the Bazaar that they are being bothered by visiting traders who assume the array of cars, rigs, replica weapons and plastic foodstuffs are for sale. There is a fair amount of goodwill towards the crew locally however as they have offered parts as extras to pretty much anyone who wants to get involved in the film.
Tomorrow Amy and Old Tom are spending the day appearing in a marketplace scene. Where the guns come in is not clear, it's supposed to be a romantic comedy. Amy is playing some kind of Harem girl with an AK47 but she won't show us her costume and says we'll need to pay to see her in the film like everyone else. A lot of people here would pay, no question. Old Tom is doing the stereotypical colonial English Johnny, pith hat and all, has even a couple of lines. Good luck with that Mr Director, let me know how it works out for you.
Take 37 - Tom, for Gods's sake man! All you have to do is just stand there and when Amy runs past with her rifle you say "That's the native gels for you, eh, what?". Action! "....Eh.....That's what the angels do for the natives." CUT!
But that is for tomorrow and, as is often the case here, you need to negotiate a difficult day before you get to the one you want.
Desert country or no, it is not an overly hostile environment. Yet every so often the wind will blow the sand around to the extent that it can cut your eyes open, so not unreasonably people prefer to stay indoors, and must forgo their nightly dose of the million stars that smear along the ink black sky above the barely constructed tents and attendant open air crate seating that pass for the local bars.
Everyone knows what is coming even if no one mentions it. They start to crowd into the bazaar as the sunset signals the end of the business day, the legitimate business, that is. Hardly any of them actually stepping into a shop, or even deigning to linger at the side of a stall. There is no pretence, we all know what they are here for.
After a while someone finds that when they opened their mouth some whispered syllables fell out, and rolled away through the crowd. Then the next someone brazenly repeats the unbidden words out loud, and that persons friend joins in when it is repeated. The hall erupts and the clapping starts, first in time and then quickly resembling the sound of two massed armies in tap shoes running to battle down a marble battlefield from a mile apart.
"Movie night" they chant, feet stamping now, so loud that capital letters would be needed to show the effect in print, "MOVIE NIGHT! MOVIE NIGHT!"
Having sensed the sea change earlier in the afternoon, Old Tom is already in his element. At his signal the haphazardly stitched envelope of white canvass that otherwise sits unobtrusively rolled is let loose and falls like a sail across the back wall of the Bazaar, billowing and then resting, becalmed but ready to take us away from here. We will stand on this familiar deck but gaze out onto strange lands (as if, of course there could be stranger).
Old Tom's ancient sausage fingers defy logic and nimbly thread some ancient celluloid into the wheel of his projector. Mysteriously, the bumbling incompetence he either works so hard to project or is genuinely in the grip of vanishes like an alcohol flambe, or love. Like a master craftsman he teases the materials to life, and colour explodes onto the makeshift screen.
No one knows how many reels of film Old Tom has in the iron trunk that sits at the back of his shop, or how he acquired them. One night under the stars in a rare moment of lucidity, possibly through the medium of sambuca, he spoke eloquently on the successes and failures of the Hollywood studio system with an insiders knowledge. Then he fell off the crate he was sitting on and set fire to his hair having knocked over the whole table including candle.
Last month he showed a print of "Dirty Harry" in which the role of Harry Callaghan was played by Frank Sinatra. Before that it was an Orson Welles double bill with "The Other Side of The Wind" and "It's All True". Why these films are not vailable on DVD is a mystery. Strangest one recently though was the film the Beatles made after Help! but didn't release, only printing up very limited number of reels. It was a strangely humourless romp called Up Against It, where they didn't play The Beatles so much as a four characters who are facets of the one, and they all end up in bed with the girl at the same time. It's pretty clear why United Artists didn't want to distribute it. Shame about the music though. The title track had definite traces of the melody to "Jet" about it. Obviously Paul McCartney couldn't let something that good so totally to waste.
Tonight it is obviously another one of these productions that must have been airbrushed from history, intended to be destroyed if not for the light fingers of Old Tom, his comedy forgetfulness a slight of mind as he ambles off accidently into the forbidden rooms, manages to not light the furnace and somehow ends up with cannisters in the boot of his car instead of the landfill stite.
The film crew have entered the Bazaar, their American camp no match for the wild sandstorm. They mingle with the crowd and are accepted without awkwardness despite their reversal in status, from creators to participants. It's just something that happens here, it has happened to everyone in this room in one way or another. Somehow within a few days of arrival you just get turned inside out, flipped around. You just have to handle it, or get back on the bus.
As the dust dances along the light beam Ewa Aulin transforms into elemental godesses Candy and encounters Richard Burton as Mephisto, the poet with the life of a rock star, Ringo Starr as a Mexican gardner whose goal of cceptance to the priesthood is under threat from predatory American girls, Marlon Brando as a charlatan shaman, Charles Aznavour, Walter Matthau, John Houston, the screen is crammed with an endless list of Hollywood greats.
Incomprehensible, if brilliant, it must be a hoax, given away by the ending where the various characters appear to return for a surrealistic reprise of their roles. Old Tom's ultimate joke, stitched together from the fragments of broken strips found in the bottom of his trunk. Poor Old Tom, he is further gone than anyone ever thought if he thinks anyone is going to believe this film ever existed, even in this place.
Candy 1968 finale