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World View: 'Mille mercis!'

March 22, 2012|By Imran Vittachi
  • Evelyn Morris is a French-American artist who lives in Newport Beach.
Evelyn Morris is a French-American artist who lives in… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Life has a way of coming around full circle.

Switching on the car radio as I drove in the St. Patrick's Day rain, I overheard an NPR report about a newly restored "Napoleon," the 1927 silent film masterpiece by French filmmaker Abel Gance, which was coming to a screen in the Bay Area.

When the reporter noted that Francis Ford Coppola presented his own restored version of this cinematic epic in 1981, and how, at the end of the screening, Coppola telephoned the nonagenarian Gance in Paris to converse with him from the stage, I recalled a memory frozen deep in my past.

My late mother and father were in the audience that day at Radio City Music Hall.

France has been on my mind lately. As I listened to the reporter wrapping up, it struck me that I had South Coast Repertory veteran actor Hal Landon Jr. to thank for unwittingly triggering a chain of recent events connected to my mother's homeland.

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Had I not interviewed the thespian in January for an article about his cameo role as an actor playing none other than Napoleon Bonaparte in "The Artist," the silent movie that won this year's Oscar for Best Picture, chances are I wouldn't have seen the film in time to write my last column, which was about how proud the Frenchman in me was for France's triumph at the 84th annual Academy Awards ("World View: France shines at the Oscars," March 2).

That column provoked a set of very personal but separate reactions from two readers, Evelyn Morris and Claire de Simone, a pair of French women living in the Newport-Mesa area.

Now these two don't know one another, but the column touched them in such a way that they both reached out to contact me after its publication. In my 17-year career as a journalist, I'm used to taking flak from readers, but I've never received back-to-back, heartfelt compliments in response to one of my pieces.

On the morning the column was published, the phone at my desk tinkled. The voice on the other end, in an accent as think as bouillabaisse, blurted out: "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

It was Morris calling me to say that we had to meet that day. Could I carve out a block of time that Friday, she pleaded, to visit her at the Showcase Gallery in South Coast Plaza Village, where an exhibit of some of artwork was winding down?

I couldn't turn down the request. I was intrigued to find out what had driven her to pick up the phone and call me.

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