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So when you were in Holland, you heard from Henri Langlois at the French Cinémathèque?
Yeah, you've heard that phrase, God may not come when you call him, but he's right on time? Well what happened is one day in Holland I came home to a little postcard in an envelope and the postcard was from Henri Langlois. And he had heard from this guy, who I met on the boat going over from Holland, who was from here and was invited to come to France to present American independent films at the Cinematheque. So he bough one of my films.
Who was that guy, an American?
Amos Vogel was his name.
No shit. And he showed your films to Henri Langlois?
Most independent films at the time were shown in the gymnasium, and most of them were just "bleep bleep blop bleep. And I wanted to tell stories. So when Henri Langois saw my films he said, "Who is this guy? He's a genius!" So he sent me this postcard saying, why are you in Holland? You should be making films!
Ah, that's what you needed to hear!
[Eyes water with emotion.] I had been there with my wife and kids, and my wife had decided that I worked too hard. ("What the fuck, bitch? I'm studying a language and getting a PhD and working...") But she decided she needed more time. So she took the kids and left! And two weeks later I got this letter from Henri Langlois. So I hitchhiked to France.
Yeah. And then they screened my films at this private theater on the Champs-Elysees, and then said I was genius. And then—you wouldn't even put this in a movie, it's too much—all the lights went on on the Champs-Elysees. And then they kissed me, and drove off!
You were ready to start your life as a filmmaker and they just left you there...
With two wet cheeks. Empty pockets and not a word of French. Know nobody. That's how I came to France.
So then you started writing, right?
No I started begging.
You started begging. You had to beg to even be able to write.
My main songs were [belts out] "Take this Hammer...." and "La la Bamba."