Sunday 23 August 2015

Les Demoiselles de Tiger Bay

Since last week’s post about the Newport Transporter Bridge in which I wrote about the theatrical potential of the bridge I’ve been reminded that the 1959 movie Tiger Bay opens with the mariner hero crossing on the gondola, passing through the gates, and by virtue of film-maker’s licence, finding himself in the streets of Cardiff. With his wages in his pocket after a long voyage, spirits are high as he looks forward to being reunited with his girlfriend but of course, tragedy awaits him. Tiger Bay shows us a seedy and decrepit Britain as yet untouched by the hedonism that would follow in the 1960s. The multi-racial character of Britain’s major ports is well captured. 

The credit sequence on Jacques Demy’s 1967 film, Les Demoiselles de Rochefort seems to have sprung from another universe with its colour, energy and optimism. We know that Don Draper watched the trailer for Demy’s 1969 movie Model Shop and it’s easy to imagine him watching the syncopated brilliance of the opening sequence of Les Demoiselles de Rochefort and thinking how this cinematic energy could be put to more profitable use promoting cigarette sales. The Rochefort Pont Transbordeur is still in existence and operated principally as a visitor attraction. Unlike Newport it is restricted to pedestrian and cycle traffic. The Rochefort bridge, like the examples built in Nantes, Marseille and Rouen is recognisably of the Arnodin family, though it lacks the distinctive captain’s cabin on the gondola. It was opened in 1900, six years before Fernand Arnodin’s Newport design began operating. 

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